B.C. government to match federal funding for Broadway SkyTrain extension, Surrey LRT

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With a provincial election looming, the B.C. government is once again coming to the table with additional funding for new transit projects.

The province will match the federal government's commitment of $2.2 billion over the next 11 years to fund the Broadway SkyTrain extension project and the Surrey LRT plan.

"We have said for quite a while that the province is committed to those two projects," said Peter Fassbender, the B.C. minister responsible for TransLink at the announcement in Surrey on Friday morning.

"This means that the due diligence, the business case analysis and the work that has already started will continue."

The money will come from the province's existing capital budget and is coming just a week after the federal government promised $2.2 billion for the two projects

The funding announcement comes after the finance minister said last week that the province would not be matching the federal funding and would limits its commitment to one third of major transit infrastructure projects.

"The province has repeatedly said that we are on board with our share, our third," said B.C. Finance Minister Mike De Jong last week following the federal budget.

Municipalities to cover 20 per cent

The municipalities, represented by the TransLink Mayors Council, will now be responsible for finding the additional 20 per cent to cover the estimated $5.5 billion it will cost for the two major projects.

A senior member of the provincial government says it is willing to work with the municipalities to figure out how to fund their share.

Following last week's federal budget, de Jong suggested municipalities use money from development along the transit lines to pay for their share of the transit projects.

"It is going to cost some money and it is going to cost local government some money, but I don't know if we have ever been in the position we are today that the support for those transit needs are being pledged to this level by the provincial and federal governments," said de Jong at the time.

In the lead up to the May 9 election, the B.C. NDP have also committed to funding 40 per cent of the mayors' transit plan, which on top of the two transit projects includes a new Pattullo Bridge, if they win the election.

The Broadway SkyTrain extension will extend the Millennium Line from its current VCC endpoint southwest to Broadway and Main, and then west to Arbutus Street.

The Surrey-Newton-Guildford LRT would add two street-level light rail transit systems running from Surrey Central and King George to Newton Exchange and Guildford.

What about the Pattullo Bridge?

The $4.4 billion from both levels of government does not cover the Pattullo Bridge replacement project.

Fassbender says the province is committed to covering a third of the cost but the rest of the funding still needs to be secured.

"We need to continue to work with the Trudeau government, the mayor's council and the region to look at that particular project," Fassbender said.

"Until that detailed work is done, I don't have a position that I can articulate at this point other than we know it's an important project for the region and the Mayors Council is doing the work that they have to do as well as TransLink."

TransLink CEO Kevin Desmond says he's optimistic a new bridge can be built in the near future.

"As the minister pointed out, the province has committed a third to the Pattullo project so we're still working on getting that fully funded," Desmond said.

"We need to have it replaced by 2023 and we're still working on putting a package together. I'm hopeful that package will come together in the fall."

Mayors Council applauds move

In a statement, the chair of the Metro Vancouver Mayors Council's funding strategy committee, Mayor Cote, said the move is welcome.

"For our part, the Mayors Council is ready to break ground on the Vancouver and Surrey rapid transit projects as soon as possible," he said.

"But we cannot forget that there are other priority projects and investments that are just as urgent, such as replacing the aging Pattullo Bridge, and upgrading the existing SkyTrain network to address overcrowding and get ready for future demand."

According to the statement, the Mayors Council will lay out a plan for the next provincial government to work with them on a "full funding strategy and legislative changes needed to complete [TransLink's] 10-Year Vision" next week.