Surrey wants to pry away its share of TransLink gas tax

Mayor Hepner says gas tax could fund LRT, province non-committal after Metro Vancouver plebiscite defeat

Transportation Minister Todd Stone is giving no sign he’ll back Surrey Mayor Linda Hepner’s suggestion that the gas taxes that flow to TransLink from Surrey be redirected to build her proposed $2.1-billion light rail network.

He cautioned Wednesday that could undermine transit in the rest of the region because most of the gas tax money now funds TransLink operations.

“Those dollars are obviously spoken for, they’re used to fund components of the system that are in operation today,” said Stone, under pressure to map out a new solution after voters rejected a 0.5 per cent sales tax increase in a referendum mandated by the province on any new TransLink tax.

RELATED: Transit tax defeat a problem for new SkyTrain line

He said splitting off gas tax funding would run against TransLink’s legislation and is not technically possible right now.

“That would need to be a discussion Mayor Hepner would need to have with her mayors’ council colleagues.”

Nearly $65 million of TransLink’s 17-cent-a-litre gas tax is paid in Surrey each year, and another $15 million in federal gas tax also flows to TransLink from the city, according to Hepner’s election campaign platform.

“Surrey deserves to be next,” Stone said, adding people there pay a lot into TransLink and it was appropriate that the mayors’ plan gave priority to rapid transit expansion in Surrey.

Delta Mayor Lois Jackson said every mayor in the region would want to peel off their locally generated TransLink gas tax to reserve it for local priorities only if the province were to enable that. That would blow a massive hole in TransLink’s budget, which draws $340 million a year from gas tax.

Hepner raised the idea of prying away the TransLink gas tax as one option to fund LRT.

She said there are other possible sources and methods to get the lines built.

A private partner could be enlisted to finance and build Surrey LRT with no capital outlay by Surrey or TransLink, she said, but the resulting annual payments would be about $60 million a year for 30 years.

“It still has to be paid back. And when it’s paid back in my mind it’s a regional payback, not just a Surrey-alone payback,” Hepner said.

“We’ve always shared those costs among the region. We didn’t shirk at Canada Line and we didn’t shirk at Evergreen Line and I’m confident the region won’t shirk at the Surrey Line.”

She noted mayors also still intend to explore road pricing, which could be a new funding source in place within five to eight years, although it’s assumed that would have to survive a referendum as well.

“Some of the other mayors are less inclined to go back to the drawing board with the province, but I think we have to,” she said. “Everybody has to stay together long enough to come to a solution.”

The sales tax hike would have funded the Surrey lines, a Broadway subway in Vancouver and broad bus, SeaBus and HandyDart improvements across the region.

Two-thirds of the capital for the Surrey and Broadway lines and the Pattullo Bridge replacement would have come from Victoria and Ottawa, and Stone said those contributions are still on the table if the region can hammer out how to pay its share.

Stone said he intends to meet in the new few weeks with Hepner and Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson – who head the mayors’ council and sit on the TransLink board.

“I don’t believe there’s any silver bullet, that there’s an easy quick fix,” Stone said, but added he believes modest bus and HandyDart improvements are possible in the short term at minimal cost to address the worst transit congestion.

Mayors continue to reject the option of raising TransLink property taxes, which is what the province wants them to do and would be allowed without a new plebiscite.

The 27 kilometres of LRT lines would link Langley City, Guildford and Newton to Surrey’s City Centre and the existing SkyTrain terminus.

Daryl Dela Cruz, a critic of Surrey’s light rail plan, notes LRT would require hefty operating subsidies for years of at least $22 million, potentially driving Hepner’s estimate of annual costs much higher.

He argues LRT should be reconsidered because it’s slower and less reliable than SkyTrain, which would attract more riders.

Just Posted

Noted fiddlers bring kids to Surrey stage for ‘A Celtic Family Christmas’ concert

Bell theatre date for Natalie MacMaster and Donnell Leahy as they reunite for 23-city tour of Canada

Surrey-based business donates $1M to hospital’s children centre improvements

Surrey Hospital Foundation kicks off campaign for ‘transformation’ of children’s centre

OUR VIEW: Surrey’s unsung heroes inspire

The Now-Leader was proud to celebrate some deserving unsung heroes in this city on Wednesday night

North Delta family raising money for brain cancer treatment

23-year-old Tashina Janus and her family are raising funds to get her immunotherapy in the U.S.

Surrey opera singer brings Mozart’s ‘Così fan tutte’ to Vancouver stage

Nancy Hasiuk-Lay has been hailed for her ‘sparkling and crystalline vocal tone’

Metro Vancouver mayors cancel Surrey LRT in favour of SkyTrain

Surrey mayor claims he can extend Skytrain for the $1.65 billion already committed to light rail

Hunter who saved B.C. man pinned inside smashed truck says ‘God was sending me to him’

Sayward man describes chance discovery of Duncan Moffat, 23, in northern Vancouver Island woods

Road-weary Canucks thumped 6-2 by Wild

Vancouver hosts the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday

Toronto private school didn’t report alleged sexual assault to police

Police say a sexual assault at an all-boys Catholic institution was not reported to them

China says butt out; Canada calls for release of “arbitrarily” detained Muslims

A Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman accused Canada’s envoy of going beyond their diplomatic roles

Dead Saskatoon tattoo artist’s skin removed and preserved

The skin was removed in honour of the well known artist’s work

Lower Mainland couple missing in Thompson-Okanagan area

Barriere RCMP received a missing persons report for two senior overdue travellers

Vancouver Warriors cancel first 2 weeks of season as labour dispute continues

The announcement means games scheduled for Dec. 1 and Dec. 8 will no longer be played

B.C. Realtor suspended after helping intern forge note about sick grandma

Vancouver real estate agent Jaideep Singh Puri has to pay fine, take ethics course

Most Read