News / Vancouver

Fed up: Surrey asks Ottawa for $1.8 B to fund 3 light rail transit lines

Surrey is fed up with waiting for the provincial government to get moving on transit funding and has applied to the federal government for $1.8 billion to build three new light rail transit (LRT) lines south of the Fraser.

Coun. Tom Gill said Wednesday the city applied for the funds through Ottawa's New Building Canada Plan, which includes $47 billion in new money for public infrastructure over the next 10 years.

"There's no question that we want to work with TransLink and the province, but I think it's been very unfortunate that many of our requests have been falling on deaf ears on TransLink's end and the province's end," he told Metro.

"We are looking for opportunities to fund this significant proposal and we do feel that this opportunity likely is one of the best opportunities for us to be able to have our project come to fruition."

Surrey is at odds with the transportation authority over TransLink's position (PDF) that a $2.2-billion SkyTrain line from King George station to Langley would deliver the most transportation benefits to the region.

The city says for a similar sum it could build three light rail transit lines: one to Langley, one down 104th Avenue connecting the City Centre station to Guildford Town Centre, and one from King George to White Rock.

Gill could not say when he expects a response to the application, but explained it is likely if successful that the feds would kick in only one-third of the requested sum, and expect the province and TransLink to pony up the other two thirds.

Vancouver Coun. Geoff Meggs called it an “interesting” move given that all transit projects are eligible for federal funding, and said Vancouver is working with TransLink in its quest to get rapid transit to UBC.

“We’ve been working hard through TransLink and through the Mayors’ Council to try to establish a regional plan, and that’s where our focus has been,” he said.

TransLink spokeswoman Cindy Bromley would not say whether she thinks the application undermines TransLink’s regional transportation strategy.

“We recognize that Surrey has a vision for its future including transit growth,” she wrote in an email. “It is our responsibility as the regional transportation authority to look at the demands of the entire region and work with all municipalities on defining transportation solutions.”

The province has promised to hold a referendum on transit funding no later than November 2014, but so far has not offered any hints of what the question on the ballot might be.

TransLink has maxed out what it can legally collect from parking taxes, fares, and property taxes, and its gas tax revenues are falling as more and more people get out of their cars.

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