$4.1B federal infrastructure deal unlocks B.C. transit funding

A rendering of future plans for a light rail transit (LRT) system in Surrey, B.C. City of Surrey

Ottawa and Victoria have inked a 10-year deal which will see $4.1 billion in infrastructure funding spent in the province.

The money isn’t new, however. Until Monday, the province and the federal government had been in negotiations over the funding streams that would allow the cash to actually flow to B.C.

The deal unlocks more than $2.6 billion in previously committed transit funding, including the $2.2 billion earmarked for B.C. in the 2017 budget, expected to cover Ottawa’s 40 per cent share of Surrey light rail transit (LRT) and a Broadway subway line.

Those projects form the core of the Mayors’ Council’s 10-year transit plan. The provincial government has also promised to pay for 40 per cent of the cost, and earlier this month, the region’s mayors announced a plan to pay for their 20 per cent share.

A map showing the proposed Broadway SkyTrain extension. TransLink

B.C. Transportation Minister Claire Trevena said with a bilateral funding deal now officially signed, serious progress can begin on the Phase Two transit projects.

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“We’re looking to… later on this spring. We are absolutely looking at finalizing the business case. This is significant,” she said.

“But I think you heard very clearly that everybody’s on board — everybody’s committed to it.”

Four years ago, the last cost estimates for the Broadway subway and Surrey LRT were $1.98 billion and $2.14 billion, respectively.

Burnaby mayor Derek Corrigan, chair of the Mayors’ Council, told Global News it’s obvious those estimates are now out of date.

“Property has escalated over that time, so have construction costs, and the pressure on the construction market [has also] increased,” he said.

Corrigan said Vancouver and Surrey have both purchased property over the last few years for potential routes for the two transit projects.

WATCH: What will Phase Two of Metro Vancouver’s 10-year transit plan cost you?

Click to play video: 'How will Phase Two of Metro Vancouver’s 10-year transit plan cost you?'
How will Phase Two of Metro Vancouver’s 10-year transit plan cost you?

Other funding streams

Along with a $2.69 billion transit funding commitment, the funding deal dedicates $1.115 billion to green infrastructure projects.

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Details of those projects remain sparse, but federal officials said the money would be used to increase access to clean energy transportation, energy-efficient buildings, capacity to adapt to climate change and natural disasters and to remediate soil and air pollutants.

The funding deal also directs more than $150 million to community, culture and recreation infrastructure and $166 million for projects to improve the quality of life in northern regions.

READ MORE: Federal budget shows billions in infrastructure won’t be spent until at least 2021

What the $4.1 billion doesn’t include is federal cash to help pay for the Pattullo Bridge replacement.

In February, the provincial government committed to funding 100 per cent of that project, though some observers questioned whether B.C. would try to negotiate further federal support.

The Ministry of Transportation confirmed that the Pattullo project wold not be eligible under any of the funding streams set out in the bilateral agreement.

— With files from Emily Lazatin

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