Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum says he is “more confident than ever that Surrey is no longer left behind on rapid transit” after the federal government’s $14.9-billion transit funding pledge Wednesday morning.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made the funding announcement as he prepared for a virtual meeting with the mayors of Canada’s largest cities, many of them struggling financially due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In an emailed statement, McCallum said as one of the fastest-growing cities in Canada, building new transit infrastructure is a “massive priority” for the City of Surrey.
Trudeau said the funds will be distributed over the next eight years and they will support major public transit projects, such as subway extensions or help to electrify fleets with zero-emission vehicles. He added it will also be used to meet the growing demand for walkways and paths for cycling “and help rural and remote communities deliver projects to meet their mobility challenges.”
About $6 billion will be available to municipalities right away for projects that are ready to go, according to the government, while the remainder will go into a $3-billion per year fund that can be doled out on a project-by-project basis starting in 2026-27.
McCallum said the funding makes “good sense” in both the short-term and long-term. He said large infrastructure projects will “immediately create well paying and stable jobs.” He said once the Surrey-Langley SkyTrain extension is completed, “it will be a public amenity that will help our residents travel cost effectively, efficiently with the added bonus of minimizing our overall carbon footprint.”
The Surrey-Langley SkyTrain will be an extension of the Expo Line, which currently ends at King George Station. The 16-kilometre route would run from King George, along Fraser Highway to 203rd Street in Langley.
In July 2019, a cost estimate for the project was expected to be $3.1 billion, with about $1.63 billion currently available. The $1.63 billion would only extend the SkyTrain to 166th Street in Fleetwood.
Meantime, the Surrey Board of Trade is “cautiously pleased” with the transit investment funding.
“Today’s announcement appears to be good news for transit across the country and possibly for Surrey,” said Anita Huberman, CEO Surrey Board of Trade.
“We have been advocating for years for increased transit investment from the Federal Government for Surrey and the South Fraser economic region, based on population growth, ridership, and density as a fundamental foundation of economic growth and resiliency.”
But Huberman called on the federal government to release more details “as quickly as possible in other for transit authorities to begin, plan and continue transit enhancements to ensure long-term predictability for the future of the transit network.”
– With files from The Canadian Press