A $7.5-billion investment in Metro Vancouver transportation infrastructure over the next 30 years is crucial to the future of the region’s economy, according to mayors who voted in favour of such a plan at a TransLink Mayors’ Council meeting.
In addition to three light-rail lines in Surrey and a subway along Vancouver’s Broadway Corridor, the multibillion-dollar plan calls for a 25% increase in bus service throughout the region, 50% more SeaBus service, 80% more NightBus service and 200 kilometres of additional B-Line routes.
The plan also envisions a new four-lane tolled bridge to replace the aging Patullo Bridge running between Surrey and New Westminster.
The Mayors’ Council threw their support behind the massive undertaking at a June 12 meeting.
The mayors are asking the provincial and federal governments to each pick up one-third of the costs.
The remaining costs would be covered through additional ridership revenue, tolls from the new Patullo Bridge, and either an increase in or reallocation of the province’s carbon tax. Furthermore, the mayors are pushing for road pricing in the long-term.
But B.C. Transportation Minister Todd Stone said Victoria would not reallocate any of the carbon tax.
"That is not going to happen. There will not be a reallocation of the existing carbon tax, and I think I've been very clear with the mayors of the Lower Mainland that when you get to the place of suggesting new funding sources, don't touch provincial revenue,” he said.
An additional carbon tax paid for by Metro Vancouver residents is a possibility, according to Stone. However, it would have to be taken to Metro Vancouver residents for approval.
Last year, B.C. Premier Christy Clark told the region’s mayors to come up with a referendum question to pose to Metro Vancouver residents and spearhead a campaign for more funding.
District of North Vancouver Mayor Richard Walton, who serves as chairman of the Mayors’ Council, told Business In Vancouver it’s imperative the plan move forward if the region is going to be competitive.
“The port is the conduit for the economy. We’re going to find increasing amounts of goods going through this region and fighting for road space along with the workers trying to get to work, the goods trying to move to markets,” he said.
“Just the internal economy of having another million people in the region (over the next 30 years) — the number of trucks and amount of goods going around…it’s going to put a huge amount of additional pressure on what we have.”
A report prepared by the Mayors’ Council stated the operating and financing costs would boost TransLink’s annual budget from $1.4 billion to $2.2 billion.
“Within 10 years we will need an additional $140 million (2015 $) per year just to maintain the quality of service and infrastructure as our population grows, and ensure that our assets remain in safe working condition,” the report said.
Among the most expensive proposals are Surrey's light-rail lines ($2.14 billion), the Broadway subway ($1.98 billion) and the Patullo Bridge replacement ($980 million).
Stone said the province is willing to provide one-third of funding capital on major transportation projects and a Patullo Bridge replacement as long as there were good business plans in place.
"We don't have any confirmation from the feds that they would be willing to step up to that degree,” he said. “But those are discussions that we need to have with the mayors and the federal government."
With a file from Jen St. Denis