COLUMN: Transit boost welcome

Federal government has committed to pay 50% of Surrey, Delta and White Rock projects, still have to come up with local share.

The most important news in the federal budget for residents of Surrey, Delta and White Rock was very good – the federal government will pay 50 per cent of the cost of public transit projects.

The South Fraser region is badly served by transit, and the transit deficit keeps growing because of development and population growth. Two big projects designed to help reduce the deficit somewhat are LRT lines.

One is scheduled to run from Newton along King George Boulevard to 104 Avenue, and then east to Guildford. The other is supposed to run along Fraser Highway, from King George Station to Langley City. The cost of the two is estimated at $2 billion.

The budget itself did not provide funds for these projects. However, the shift in the funding formula makes it far more likely that they will actually be built.

Prior infrastructure projects have been funded on an equal one-third/one-third/one-third basis, with each level of government paying the same amount. However, local governments do not have anywhere near the taxing capacity that both the federal and provincial governments have. Thus, when the transit funding referendum was defeated last year, major projects (including the Surrey LRT lines) that a rise in the sales tax would fund were dealt a severe setback.

By agreeing to pay up to 50 per cent of the cost, the federal government has effectively reduced the share that local governments will pay to 17 per cent. The province plans to continue paying for one-third of the cost of major projects.

Surrey Mayor Linda Hepner said she believes the first work on the LRT projects will begin by 2018. She expects the line to Langley City to be finished by 2024.

The federal government is set to begin talking to Metro Vancouver mayors as soon as this week about transit infrastructure projects. Mayors are very optimistic that the major transit projects on their list, the Surrey LRT lines and a Broadway subway line in Vancouver, will receive federal funding.

There is still a hurdle – coming up with the local share. TransLink will need significantly more funds to pay its share that it has now. This will likely mean intense discussions among mayors, and with the province, about how best to proceed.

TransLink could still bring in a car tax, as was proposed in the late 1990s. It has that ability through legislation – although the province might still want it to be approved by referendum.

There could also be a more equitable tolling or road pricing plan, if the mayors and the province can come to a meeting of minds. Such a plan would see funds go to the province to pay for the Port Mann Bridge and Highway 1 project, and to TransLink for the Golden Ears Bridge and other transportation projects.

If all that fails, Surrey could still go it alone – although the cost to local taxpayers would be steep. Given that other transit projects have been funded on a regional basis, that would be quite unfair. However, it is also quite unlikely.

Working out how funds are raised at the local level will be a challenge, but it has been made much easier with the federal decision to fund 50 per cent of the capital costs. The federal government has the most comprehensive taxing power of all levels of government, and a commitment to improve transit in Surrey in the next decade is very welcome.

Surrey and other South Fraser residents look forward to seeing quick progress on this front in the coming months.

Surrey North Delta Leader

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A reminder to students at Surrey’s Strawberry Hill Elementary to physically distance during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo: Lauren Collins)
Five Surrey schools reporting COVID-19 exposures, including another at Panorama Ridge

INTERACTIVE TABLE: Search for schools, organize by exposure dates

Surrey firefighters battle a house fire near the 70A Avenue and 126A Street intersection early Sunday morning. According to a witness, it appears that the occupants were able to get out without injury. (Shane MacKichan photos)
PHOTOS: Fire causes extensive damage to Surrey home

Occupants able to escape without injury: witness

NDP headquarters on election night, Oct. 24, 2020. (Katya Slepian/Black Press Media)
ELECTION 2020: Live blog from B.C. party headquarters

BC NDP projected to win majority government – but celebrations will look different this election

B.C. Green Party leader Sonia Furstenau outlines her party's climate action platform at Nanaimo's Vancouver Island Conference Centre earlier this month. (News Bulletin file photo)
Green leader Furstenau declared victor in her home riding on Vancouver Island

Cowichan Valley voters elect freshly minted party leader for her second term

John Horgan has been re-elected the MLA for Langford-Juan de Fuca. (File-Black Press)
Horgan trounces challengers to be re-elected in his Vancouver Island riding

MLA has represented constituency of Langford-Juan de Fuca and its predecessors since 2005

NDP Leader John Horgan celebrates his election win in the British Columbia provincial election in downtown Vancouver, B.C., Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Horgan celebrates projected majority NDP government, but no deadline for $1,000 deposit

Premier-elect says majority government will allow him to tackle issues across all of B.C.

FILE – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau greets Premier John Horgan during a press conference at the BC Transit corporate office following an announcement about new investments to improve transit for citizens in the province while in Victoria on Thursday, July 18, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Trudeau congratulates Horgan on NDP’s election victory in British Columbia

Final count won’t be available for three weeks due to the record number of 525,000 ballots cast by mail

Comedic actor Seth Rogen, right, and business partner Evan Goldberg pose in this undated handout photo. When actor Seth Rogen was growing up and smoking cannabis in Vancouver, he recalls there was a constant cloud of shame around the substance that still lingers. Rogen is determined to change that. (Maarten de Boer ohoto)
Seth Rogen talks about fighting cannabis stigma, why pot should be as accepted as beer

‘I smoke weed all day and every day and have for 20 years’

Provincial Green Party leader Sonia Furstenau speaks at Provincial Green Party headquarters at the Delta Victoria Ocean Pointe in Victoria. (Arnold Lim / Black Press)
VIDEO: Furstenau leads BC Greens to win first riding outside of Vancouver Island

Sonia Furstenau became leader of BC Greens one week before snap election was called

NDP Leader John Horgan elbow bumps NDP candidate Coquitlam-Burke Mountain candidate Fin Donnelly following a seniors round table in Coquitlam, B.C., Tuesday, October 20, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Horgan, NDP head for majority in B.C. election results

Record number of mail-in ballots may shift results

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

RCMP crest. (Black Press Media files)
Mounties looking for teen boy ‘unlawfully at large’ from Riverview psychiatric hospital

Nolan Godron left the hospital, located at 2721 Lougheed Highway in Coquitlam, without consent on Saturday

The Canadian border is pictured at the Peace Arch Canada/USA border crossing in Surrey, B.C. Friday, March 20, 2020. More than 4.6 million people have arrived in Canada since the border closed last March and fewer than one-quarter of them were ordered to quarantine while the rest were deemed “essential” and exempted from quarantining. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Majority of international travellers since March deemed ‘essential’, avoid quarantine

As of Oct. 20, 3.5 million travellers had been deemed essential, and another 1.1 million were considered non-essential

Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam responds to a question during a news conference Friday October 23, 2020 in Ottawa. Canada’s top physician says she fears the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths may increase in the coming weeks as the second wave continues to drive the death toll toward 10,000. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s top doctor warns severe illness likely to rise, trailing spike in COVID-19 cases

Average daily deaths from virus reached 23 over the past seven days, up from six deaths six weeks ago

Most Read