Even if Doug McCallum is able to get the support of his colleagues on the TransLink Mayors’ Council it appears there will be other roadblocks to switching from LRT to SkyTrain in Surrey.
B.C. premier John Horgan has said the province will support whatever plan the Mayors’ Council puts forward, but won’t be providing any additional money.
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.
Switching to SkyTrain would be much more expensive, with TransLink estimating it would cost $2.9 billion.
“It would certainly not fit into our new capital plan,” said Horgan.
“The new mayors from around the region will get together and we are looking forward to hearing from them, but certainly we and the federal government have funded the plan put forward by the last council and the council before them.”
The Mayors’ Council could ask taxpayers to fork over more money, but most mayors don’t seem in favour of that. The federal government has indicated the LRT cash could be used for SkyTrain, but there doesn’t seem to be additional funds available.
But McCallum does have some powerful allies on this issue in the region that could apply some pressure for additional funding. Vancouver mayor-elect Kennedy Stewart has indicated he would be willing to support a change in priority from Surrey light rail to SkyTrain.
Plus, the soon-to-be mayor in the City of Langley, Val van den Broek, says her community is overwhelmingly in favour of SkyTrain over the alternative.
“Of the 3,000 single family detached homes I knocked on, probably 75 per cent of them, 80 per cent, wanted SkyTrain,” said van den Broek.
“We need to have a dialogue about it. We are not the only ones that want SkyTrain.”
But when asked about how the funding gap could be covered, Van den Broek says she is still not sure.
WATCH HERE: New details on new Surrey mayor’s idea for SkyTrain
“I am reviewing all the documents very closely. I really can’t comment on it until I thoroughly understand what is going on,” said Van den Broek.
Adding to the cash struggles is the demand from other regions to have their projects addressed. Delta mayor elect George Harvie says his main issue is to get the provincial government to sign on to a replacement for the Massey Tunnel.
The cheapest price tag for a bridge to replace the tunnel has come in at $2.6 billion.
“All of the people of Delta, North and South, spoke loud and clear to us at doors and now it is time to move forward on this,” said Harvie.
“One of my key priorities will be getting to the table with both federal and provincial governments and a newly elected Mayors’ Council and focus on the bridge. Delta has supported the region’s transportation projects for a long time and now we need to focus on south of the Fraser.”
“My worry is should the tunnel be closed for any reason it is going to be catastrophic for the region’s economy.”
The provincial government cancelled an approved new bridge when it came into power. Transportation minister Claire Trevena is still grappling with what the province should do and has not yet produced a report about replacing or fixing the tunnel that was put in her hands earlier this year.
“I have said all along that this is a matter of engagement and making sure that everyone is working together. We are re-setting the page,” said Trevena.