SURREY – Mayoral hopeful Linda Hepner says is she’s elected, residents will be "riding light rail here in Surrey in 2018."
"We chose light rail for a number of reasons, including lower costs and faster start up time. Now, it’s time to get to work, because keeping our city moving is a big priority for our Surrey First team," Hepner said.
She said it’s unacceptable Surrey residents pay roughly $144 million to TransLink each year, but the city has not seen expansion in rail rapid transit in the past two decades.
Hepner promises to have "phase one" of a Surrey LRT system up and running by 2018 and says, if necessary, she’ll commit land and put revenues from development along the route toward paying for the system.
The ground-level system, when complete, will have 27 kilometres of track with up to 20 stops.
Phase one would include 10 kilometres of track connecting City Centre to Guildford along 104th Avenue in 10 minutes, and connecting City Centre to Newton via King George Boulevard in 15 minutes.
Hepner said the line will be within walking distance for some 20,000 residents.
The Mayors’ Council’s Regional Transportation Plan identifies Surrey’s LRT as a top priority. However, it is dependent on the 2015 Metro Vancouver transportation referendum passing.
"We need a yes for that," Hepner noted.
But if it’s voted down, her "plan B" is to apply to the New Building Canada Fund, a $14-billion infrastructure program meant to finance programs of national and regional significance.
The city could also provide land for the line, she added.
"Anytime you’re close to transportation, that land becomes more valuable," she said, noting the city would use the resulting "uplift" in development revenues to help pay for the line.
Surrey First also plans to bring in the private sector to help finance the project, like what was done in Waterloo’s and Edmonton’s light rail programs.
"I am absolutely confident that there are a number of organizations that would jump at the chance to partner with this project. Without disclosing a whole lot, I’ve actually talked with one," Hepner said.
Phase two of the line is a 17-kilometre expansion along Fraser Highway to Langley, which Hepner commits to having complete within five years of phase one being finished. The line will be complemented by fast bus service to White Rock, Hepner noted.
All in all, the system is expected to cost upwards of $2 billion.
"We’re prepared to think outside of the box on this project, particularly when it comes to funding," said Hepner. "Our citizens have told us loud and clear that transit, transportation and easing congestion on our Twitter @amyreid87 CI IC roads are all important priorities to our city’s future. People want to get around their city, so we’re prepared to make sure this project gets the green light right away."
But can it truly be up and running by 2018?
Hepner believes it can, noting much of the design work has already been done.
The system would complement the city’s Traffic Management
Centre, Hepner said. By year’s end the city will have 250 intersection cameras, through which lights and signals can be adjusted in real-time to relieve congestion on city streets.