Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum, third from left, has strongly opposed light rail in favour of SkyTrain for Surrey. (Katya Slepian/Black Press Media)

Metro Vancouver mayors vote to ‘develop’ $1.65B in Fraser Highway SkyTrain plans

Surrey will have to ‘compensate’ for the $56 million already spent on light rail

Metro Vancouver mayors took one more step along the road to SkyTrain on Fraser Highway at their meeting on Thursday.

The Mayors’ Council on Regional Transportation voted to “proceed immediately with planning and project development work” for SkyTrain along Fraser Highway.

The vote followed heated, divisive debate over if Surrey should be allowed to completely rejig South of the Fraser transit plans.

READ MORE: TransLink reveals new plans for proposed Surrey-Langley SkyTrain

“Surrey is dictating what our plan will be,” West Vancouver Coun. Craig Cameron said.

At the heart of Thursday’s meeting was what should be done with the $1.65 billion previously allocated to light rail.

Plans for light rail were cleared off the table after the Mayors’ Council voted last month to proceed with SkyTrain.

READ MORE: Metro Vancouver mayors cancel Surrey LRT in favour of SkyTrain

The regional body’s vote followed that of Surrey’s council, which voted to “cancel” light rail in favour of SkyTrain after the Oct. 20 election.

Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum has called his slate’s election a “referendum” on SkyTrain and today told mayors that an “overwhelming number” of his city’s residents support it.

McCallum received 41 per cent of the vote in Surrey’s local election from the 33 per cent of residents who voted.

Richmond Mayor Malcolm Brodie cited both delegations at the meeting and the emails he “received from people in Surrey” that showed dissent.

“What do we really know about what the people of Surrey want?” Brodie asked, citing pre-election consultation work that showed support for light rail.

Plans revealed by TransLink Sunday showed a 2025 completion date for as much of the line as could be built for $1.65 billion.

Mayors’ Council chair Jonathan Cote told reporters that meant to “Fleetwood, maybe Clayton Heights.”

TransLink has estimated the entire SkyTrain line to Langley would cost $2.9 billion due to inflation and the increasing cost of land.

However, McCallum reaffirmed earlier statements that he believed the line could be built all the way to Langley for just $1.65 billion

“I’m confident that for the $1.6 billion we can do it, if we take into consideration doing it at-grade,” McCallum said.

Also at question Thursday was the $56 million already spent on light rail work for the now-cancelled Surrey-Newton-Guildford line.

Mayors from Richmond and Coquitlam insisted that Surrey pay back that money.

Coquitlam Mayor Richard Stewart said that just as his city had helped fund city-specific transit improvements to regional plans in the past, Surrey should have to do the same.

“If Coquitlam cant get an extra [SkyTrain] station without paying for it ourselves, I can’t envision how other communities can get whole other form of transit without funding it,” he said.

Richmond Mayor Malcolm Brodie said Surrey was pushing the region to “throw away” a “fully approved, fully funded, fully vetted plan.”

The $1.65 billion allocated for Surrey-Newton-Guildford light rail had been fully funded this summer as part of the $7.3 billion phase two of the mayors’ 10-year-vision.

After hours of back and forth, mayors’ agreed that Surrey would “compensate” the Mayors’ Council for the “unnecessarily expended” costs that arose from cancelling light rail before any SkyTrain plans go ahead.

McCallum said that could include land transfers, rather than simply cash.

Mayors also voted on cancelling plans for Fraser Highway B-Lines, choosing to instead invest that money into upgrading B-Lines in Newton and Guildford.

The 96 B-Line, which runs in the region, has the fastest growing ridership of any bus.


@katslepian

katya.slepian@bpdigital.ca

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