Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum plans to spend the next week reaching out to the region’s mayors in an effort to gain support for his council’s plans to trade light rail for SkyTrain.
On Monday night, at its first meeting since the municipal election, Surrey council approved a motion to stop the $1.65-billion Surrey-Newton-Guildford at-grade light-rail line and start work on a SkyTrain line from King George station to Langley City.
“We got elected to start working today,” McCallum said following the meeting. “Many of us, including myself, already started working a couple of weeks ago right after we got elected. We are going to move very fast in the City of Surrey.”
McCallum said city staff have already stopped working on the LRT project and switched their focus to SkyTrain.
The motion also asks TransLink’s Mayors’ Council and board of directors to cancel the project and “immediately initiate a new SkyTrain extension project along Fraser Highway.” This means, according to the motion, changing the listed technology from light rail to SkyTrain and redirecting the $1.65 billion in funding allocated to light rail. The mayors’ council is made up of mayors from the region’s 21 municipalities, the director of Electoral Area A and the chief of the Tsawwassen First Nation.
McCallum said he plans to bring forward a motion at the council’s next meeting, on Nov. 15, to change the wording in the mayors’ council’s 10-year regional transportation plan, removing references to light rail and replacing them with SkyTrain.
McCallum emphasized that he supports the 10-year plan.
McCallum said he has talked to a number of the region’s mayors and will continue to “get their feeling” in the days leading up to the meeting.
“I will say right now it is a good feeling when they realize that, in fact, Surrey is going to be very supportive — and in fact I’m going to be very outspoken in support of — the 10-year plan and that we move ahead quickly on that plan,” he said.
However, many mayors have said publicly that they will either not support changing the project or that they will want more information before they consider it.
New Westminster Mayor Jonathan Coté, one of the few mayors returning to the mayors’ council, said the first decision they will have to make is whether to quit work on the light rail project. He said if it’s not supported by the city, TransLink should stop spending money on it.
Then, they will be in a position to consider McCallum’s request, including requesting further study or a business case.
“No doubt, I think changing the mayors’ plan is definitely a conversation we’re going to have to have regarding the new perspective and new vision from the government in the City of Surrey, but it’s not something that is going to happen automatically,” Coté said.
“A billion-dollar decision like that should not be made on a whim.”
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