Surrey light rail project passes first hurdle to secure federal funding

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Surrey’s light rail transit ambitions are one step closer to reality after it received preliminary approval for federal funding from the P3 Canada fund.

According to the City of Surrey, the project has been granted “screened in” status, which means the proposal will now move on to the next phase for P3 federal funding consideration.

“With Surrey’s population growing so quickly, securing new rapid transit options have been a top priority of mine,” says Mayor Dianne Watts in a statement. “This decision to have Surrey’s application for federal funding move on to the next stage is a significant step forward in making a Light Rail Transit system a reality in our city.”

A recent preliminary Surrey Rapid Transit study has determined that light rail lines on Fraser Highway and King George Boulevard, feeding off from the SkyTrain Expo Line, could cost between $1.7 to $2.2-billion.

Under the P3 model of funding, each level of government will be responsible for one-third of the construction cost: 33 per cent from each of the federal, provincial and regional authorities (TransLink and municipal governments). Funding from TransLink on any transit expansion is contingent on a positive result in next year’s regional referendum on public transit financing.

Surrey municipal officials and candidates have been open about their preference for a street-level light rail system instead of SkyTrain, although critics have argued that light rail will be much slower and attract significantly less ridership than an extension of grade-separated SkyTrain.

“Unlike Light Rail, SkyTrains and B-Line buses aren’t prone to accidents and actually save people time,” said Daryl Dela Cruz of the Better Surrey Rapid Transit advocacy group. “The first phase of proposed Light Rail, between Guildford and Newton, will save riders only 1 minute versus the current 96 B-Line.”

Next to crime, transportation is one of the top issues ahead of next week’s Surrey civic election.

Surrey First mayoral candidate Linda Hepner has indicated in her platform that the first phase of the light rail network will be completed by 2018. Similar promises were made by Safe Surrey Coalition mayoral candidate Doug McCallum, with construction beginning within two years following the election.

Barinder Rasode, the mayoral candidate for the One Surrey party, has previously stated that there is an immediate urgency for more buses Surrey to support the ridership of the municipality’s long-term light rail network vision.

 

Feature Image: City of Surrey

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