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Trudeau says he won't stand in the way of Surrey SkyTrain plan

Last Updated Nov 1, 2018 at 11:23 pm PDT

File Photo (Source: Rail for the Valley)

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he won't stand in the way if Surrey wants to build a SkyTrain instead of LRT

Trudeau didn't answer directly whether the government would provide additional funding if SkyTrain costs more than LRT

Surrey's mayor has repeatedly state the cost of the 16 kilometre-SkyTrain will be the same as LRT

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130)-  Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said he won’t interfere in the region’s plans for transit infrastructure if Surrey decides to switch from a light rail transit to a SkyTrain.

Surrey’s new mayor Doug McCallum has promised to scrap plans for the LRT, raising questions about how much more this project could cost. Trudeau has committed to funding transit projects in the Lower Mainland, but hasn’t said whether switching to a SkyTrain extension along the Fraser Highway to Langley could impact the amount of federal funding – $483.8 million – already earmarked for the $1.65-billion LRT project.

“I can commit that the federal government will be there as a partner, as they determine their priorities,” he said in Vancouver Thursday.

He said he would support whatever option was preferred, but didn’t say either way whether they would consider putting more money toward a transit project in Surrey.

“Over the past years, we have worked with the mayor’s council across the Lower Mainland, we have worked with individual mayors, we’ve worked with the provincial government, to identify the projects that matter to British Columbians, the projects that matter to you,” he says. “And we’ve said we will be full partners on these projects.”

Related stories:

If Surrey can make SkyTrain plans work, feds will keep funding: MP

Surrey’s incoming mayor talks LRT vs. SkyTrain after more than a week of silence

Planning experts say too early to predict timeline of SkyTrain linking Surrey with Langley

Could Surrey have to dip into taxpayer money to fund light rail?

Will the BC gov’t agree to provide more cash to replace light rail with SkyTrain in Surrey?

TransLink has previously estimated a SkyTrain extension would cost $2.91 billion, but Mayor Doug McCallum has repeatedly promised to build a SkyTrain in Surrey for the same cost as LRT.

McCallum says there was no mention of whether Ottawa is willing to chip in for the extra costs when the two met face-to-face on Thursday.

“We didn’t talk about that because the prime minister has indicated that he respects the mayors’ council and the decisions they make.”

As for Surrey reimbursing the region for the $50 million already spent on the original design? He  says he won’t owe anything, because changes are common during large transit projects.

“Different cities during building of rapid transit lines have also started with light rail. Vancouver is a good example. It started with the idea of light rail along the Arbutus corridor and spent money on that, before the plans changed.”

And he says after recently consulting with an engineer, he doesn’t think the extra costs will be significant.

“The engineer indicated Fraser Highway is probably going to be the simplest of any construction projects along the rapid transit line in Metro Vancouver. That’s true. It’s a straight line and ten per cent of it will be at ground.”

The possible exit of Mounties from Surrey also discussed

McCallum says the prime minister is committed to working with the municipality, if it goes through with replacing its Mounties with a municipal force.

The mayor-elect is stressing many policing-assets already belong to the city.

“Surrey already owns all the policing equipment, like the cars, the comunity police stations. And CUPE staff, 300 of them, are already doing administration.”

Much has been made about how costly switching to a municipal force would cost the city. But McCallum says if RCMP officers choose to unionize in the next few years, the cost of keeping the Mounties in Surrey would increase anyway.

He says any extra costs associated with a new force should come as no surprise to voters.

“In the campaign, we were very clear that it would cost a little bit more to have our own police force. Bu their comments back to us was that they were willing to pay more to make our community safer.”

He is sticking by his assertion that a police force conversion could happen within two years.

“Once we get approval from the federal and provincial governments, not only am I confident but police chiefs around the region are confident, that we can have it up and running within two years.”


– With files from Marcella Bernardo