Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart is heading to Ottawa next week to meet with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and other federal party leaders regarding increased funding to help support continued plans to expand Metro Vancouver’s public transit system.
This follows a recent phone call between Stewart and Trudeau, with the mayor representing TransLink’s Mayors’ Council.
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Ahead of last month’s federal election, the Liberal Party, NDP, and Green Party promised to create a permanent, predictable annual federal transit fund after 2027, when the federal government’s current $187-billion Investing In Canada infrastructure program ends. The Conservative Party did not provide certain and clear support for transit investments in the region.
Regional mayors are asking for the upcoming throne speech to formalize the permanent transit fund, as well as the creation of an electric-battery bus fleet conversion fund, and new funding to complete the third phase of the Mayors’ Council’s 10-year plan, which entails the big SkyTrain items of the Millennium Line Broadway Extension from Arbutus to the UBC campus and the Expo Line Millennium Line Extension from Fleetwood to Langley Centre.
The urgency with finding additional funding for the Expo Line project is particularly pressing. There is currently $1.6 billion available from the cancelled Newton-Guildford LRT project that can be redirected to cover the seven-km-long, four-station SkyTrain extension cost from King George Station to Fleetwood, but another $1.5 billion is needed for the remaining nine-km-long, four-station leg to Langley Centre.
TransLink CEO Kevin Desmond recently expressed his desire to build the entire $3.1-billion, 16-km Expo Line extension in one go given the efficiencies resulting in a lower overall construction cost. If funding is secured in time, the entire extension, not just to Fleetwood, could be built by 2025.
However, Desmond said the remaining seven-km-long extension project to UBC will have to run on a longer implementation timeline, as far less work has been completed on technical analysis of the potential design and the project carries a significantly higher cost of between $2.8 billion and $3.2 billion in 2018 dollars.
“The federal government has helped this region transform its transit planning over the past four years,” said Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart in a statement.
“We want this new government to build on its track record of partnership and leadership by committing to work with us to quickly turn the next wave of regional transit plans and priorities into on-the-ground services that benefit the region, as well as the environment and the economy.”
The Mayors’ Council is also hoping to seek funding from the federal government’s green infrastructure program to help cover the $200-million cost of the gondola public transit line from Production Way-University Station to SFU’s Burnaby Mountain campus.