Mayors across Metro Vancouver are not going to have much time to get their bearings as a battle is brewing over the future of Surrey mass transit. Surrey mayor-elect Doug McCallum has committed to voters that he is going to scrap the proposed Surrey light rail transit (LRT) project in an attempt to get a SkyTrain extension through the city.
“We have been waiting 30 years. Everybody else has got SkyTrain,” McCallum said. “It is our turn to get it now. I think the mayors will recognize it is Surrey’s turn and we need SkyTrain built in Surrey.”
But before the project can be taken off the rails, the Mayors’ Council must vote in favour of a new project. TransLink has pegged the cost for LRT through the city at $1.65 billion. That money has already been secured, with $483.8 million from the federal government, $1.12 billion in regional funds and a little extra from a previous commitment.
Going to SkyTrain would be much more expensive, with TransLink estimating it would cost $2.9 billion.
WATCH HERE: Federal funding can be used for Surrey LRT or SkyTrain: MP
The Mayors’ Council would have to vote on a different investment plan and that could lead to the province and federal government reconsidering their financial commitments. Liberal MP Ken Hardie has ensured Surrey residents that the federal funding would remain on the table even if the region forged forward with SkyTrain.
But North Vancouver mayor-elect Linda Buchanan does not think the mayors’ should reopen the discussion about the project.
“I think at this point I am not sure going back to table and renegotiate that is in the region’s best interest,” said Buchanan. “I think the mayors that came up with the plan did significant work and if Surrey wants to do that it is not in the region’s best interest.”
Vancouver mayor-elect Kennedy Stewart would vote on the Mayors’ Council in favour of switching to SkyTrain if that is what Surrey wants. The former MP says part of the job of Metro Vancouver mayors will be to tell Ottawa how badly they need transportation funding.
“We have to come together and make sure we get our fair share. I know from being there for seven years that the loudest voice often get their way,” Stewart said.
Richmond Mayor Malcolm Brodie says it is too late to amend the plan the mayors have approved and have convinced other levels of government to buy into. Brodie also doesn’t think there is any money to pay for the cost gap between the two projects.
“You are going to have to go back to the mayors, go back to the region and go back and modify the plan and take your chances,” Brodie said. “I think it is very unlikely. We are very aware of the funding challenges TransLink has. We are not going to increase property taxes in the region.”