Budget 2017: ‘Transformative’ $2.2B for region’s transit praised by Surrey mayor

Linda Hepner also applauds the federal government’s $11.2 billion commitment to increase housing affordability.

Surrey Mayor Linda Hepner.

Surrey Mayor Linda Hepner.

SURREY — Mayor Linda Hepner is pleased with the federal government’s promise of $2.2 billion for Surrey’s LRT line and Vancouver’s Broadway line in the 2017 budget, released Wednesday afternoon.

The region’s share is part of a $20.1 billion commitment over 11 years across the country.

“It’s exactly what we expected,” Hepner old the Now. “We thought we would get somewhere in the neighbourhood of $2 billion.”

She added that it’s a “transformative” investment and said “as far as I know, it’s the biggest investment in transit from the federal government in the last 20 years for the Vancouver area.

“It’s a game changer.”

See more: Federal budget promises $2.2 billion for Metro Vancouver transit

The next step, she said, is to get a firm dollar commitment from both the BC NDP and the BC Liberals for Surrey’s LRT line and other transit projects around the region.

“We’re hopeful we can look at the conversation around the matching of federal dollars – so we can get out of the arena of percentages and we can have a dollar commitment,” Hepner said of provincial politicians. “NDP is promising 40 per cent (of the funding for the transit projects), and the Liberals are promising 33 per cent. But we don’t know what’s in and what’s out. So we’ll be shifting the conversation from percentages, to a dollar commitment from all the parties, and then we let the electorate decide.”

The final piece of the funding puzzle is getting legislation in place for the region’s share, Hepner noted, so Surrey can be “procurement ready” by the end of the year.

“That gets us into 2018 procurement and into construction for early works,” she explained.

Surrey City Council recently endorsed the LRT vision statement for “connected, complete and livable communities,” and rapid transit manager Paul Lee says shovels will be in the ground – in some form – in 2018.

“We’re currently designing work that’s part of the project. It’s what we call enabling work. We want to do some of these things in advance,” he explained. That work will be done thanks to funds received from federal and provincial governments last summer, and TransLink in November, he added. “We can tackle some of the tough spots, some of the environmental work (and utility relocation).”

Aside from transit funding, Hepner said she was pleased to see the federal government’s commitment of $11.2 billion over 11 years to increasing housing affordability.

“As big city mayors, we had asked for an investment of $12 billion (for housing). They gave $11.2 billion yesterday,” she said. “As well as that, we were told yesterday there is other funding available for mental health and transitional housing, and that’s over and above the $11.2 billion, and I’m confident that we, across the country, can make significant inroads to the housing issues we face.”

See more: Budget 2017: Ottawa’s housing strategy offers $1 billion a year

And, there’s a new fund for trade corridors, she continued.

“That could very well affect us when you think about Surrey being the second largest border crossing in the entire country.”

amy.reid@thenownewspaper.com