Mayors’ Council ups political pressure on Victoria to ‘cure congestion’

SURREY (NEWS 1130) – With a provincial election fast-approaching, the region’s Mayors’ Council is laying out what it wants from Victoria to be able to complete its 10-year vision for rail and bus service across Metro Vancouver.

It has launched a public awareness campaign in hopes political parties live up to transportation funding commitments and it wants money to help “cure congestion.”

“We want to make sure that people around this region understand the importance of the new provincial government after this election, investing more in transit and transportation around Metro Vancouver,” explains Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson. “We’re happy tosee the investments that have been recently, but we need to take it to the next level and we need to fund our entire 10-year plan, which means going beyond the major projects in Vancouver and Surrey to fund the Pattullo Bridge, to fund SkyTrain improvements and to fund improvements in HandyDART service. Those are all really essential for curing congestion in Metro Vancouver.”

TransLink has already started Phase 1 of its planned improvements with $2 billion worth of funding approved last fall with TransLink’s funding portion coming from sources like fare and property tax increases that will be implemented this July and a regional fee for new development by 2020. Of course, there are some big bills on the horizon with major projects like the Broadway rapid transit line in Vancouver and light rail in Surrey.

The mayors chose to hold their news conference at the King George SkyTrain Station which Surrey Mayor Linda Hepner says shows just how taxed the system is. “We’re very, very happy to see the enormous investment from both the federal and provincial governments on getting those capital projects going, but today is all about what’s in the rest of the plan and what else do we need? And we need that help. We need that help to improve some of the [SkyTrain] Stations.”

Peter Fassbender, the minister responsible for TransLink, notes BC has already matched the federal government contibution for the latest request and he says the government remains committed to funding transit around the province.

“I also know, no matter what you do, there’s always more that you could do or might want to do and we just need to sit down with the mayors and work with them and move forward.”

Federal and provincial funding has already been promised for Phase 2, but the mayors want a full commitment from the other two levels of government.

“Transportation and public transit are some of the most critical issues facing our region,” says New Westminster Mayor Jonathan Cote. “The mayors strongly believe and strongly hope that during this provincial election that all parties are going to be able to commit to the major projects that have recently been announced, but also make similar commitments to the other major transportation projects the mayors have prioritized in the 10-year plan.”

The mayors were asked how much money they want but did not provide an exact dollar amount. “It depends on the individual project. For the investment into the existing SkyTrain capacity and the infrastructure the ask is about $350 million. For the Pattullo Bridge, we know it’s going to cost over $1 billion and we expect tolls to cover just over half of the cost of that structure, but we still need the other component to fill in there,” explains Cote.

TransLink lost a bid to bring in a sales tax to help fund transit and transportation in a plebiscite two years ago, and has had plans for vehicle levies or new carbon taxes to generate funds for a while.

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