Surrey LRT plan passes hurdle

SURREY – A federal agency overseeing public-private infrastructure projects in Canada has given preliminary approval to Surrey’s application to help fund Light Rail Transit.


According to a press release issued by the city Thursday (Oct. 30), the P3 Canada Fund has granted "screened in" status to the application, meaning it will move on to the next phase for further funding consideration.


"With Surrey’s population growing so quickly, securing new rapid transit options have been a top priority of mine," said Mayor Dianne Watts in the release. "This decision to have Surrey’s application for federal funding move on to the next stage is a significant step forward in making a Light Rail Transit system a reality in our city." City staff are working with TransLink, the regional transportation agency that would administer the LRT network, to refine the design and cost estimates for the project. The design work is also necessary to prepare a business case for federal funding.


Surrey’s objective is a funding arrangement composed of one third federal, one third provincial and one third regional. The regional support already exists in the form of the Mayors’ Council’s Regional Transportation Plan, which has identified Surrey’s LRT plan for 27 km of track as a top priority. However, any such funding will depend heavily on the results of a TransLink referendum expected in the spring of 2015.


P3 projects (or public-private partnerships) involves a contract between a public sector entity and a private company, in which the private contractor usually assumes the financial, technical and operational risk in the project to reduce costs to the taxpayer.


There are several examples of P3 projects in Canada, including seven transit projects, such as LRT in Edmonton, and closer to home, Lincoln Station on the Evergreen Line.


Proponents for the plan say LRT is more cost-effective than a SkyTrain extension, with 27 km of LRT track costing the same as 16 km of SkyTrain. Studies estimate that a SkyTrain from Surrey City Centre to Langley would only be five minutes faster than light rail. According to the city, the LRT network will be able to meet future population growth projections and needs for transit.


-with a file from Amy Reid

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