They wanted it, and Campbell delivered on demands for a bigger Port Mann bridge
This is my latest and last 24 Hours column before I go on hiatus...
In my first 24 hours column I wrote about the growing prominence of the South Fraser cities within Metro Vancouver. I was only half joking when I suggested that in future we’ll attend Surrey Canucks games, or flying to and from Surrey International Airport.
Credit that boost in reputation to Mayor Dianne Watts and her team, as well as a finely crafted public relations strategy that reminds us of their triumphs. At her sixth-annual State of the City address on Tuesday, Surrey’s Mayor once again had a packed house of business and community leaders, media and social media gurus alike hanging on her every word.
On stage behind Watts stood a large poster of a light-rail vehicle with “Surrey Central” lit up on the front. It was great optics for the mayor, and a clear signal that she is making rail rapid transit a big priority for her city.
I’ve saluted Mayor Watts on many occasions for being bold about what she wants for her city, while even taking a few pokes at TransLink executives sitting in the room.
By comparison, you just can’t imagine Vancouver’s mayor telling the Board of Trade he’s going to finish the Millennium Line out to West Broadway come hell or high water.
Surrey has lately got religious on “smart growth” – such as planning denser town centres, and establishing a downtown core around a new City Hall. But I suspect the city will have to live with its previous decision to expand car-dependent commuting for many years to come.
This is discouraging news for those who think the growth patterns in the South Fraser cities entitles the area to rail links. Watts points out that 70 per cent of regional growth is taking place south of the Fraser. But when we have no existing funding model in place to pay for new rapid transit, it’s hard to imagine Surrey’s light-rail dream happening for decades.
By contrast, just look at what we’re doing with the Port Mann Highway One (PMH1) project. Billions are being spent to give us ten lanes over the Fraser River. We’ve moved masses of earth to widen the freeway right-of-way from Boundary Road to the outskirts of Langley to accommodate that growth.
Supported by both the B.C. Liberal and NDP MLAs – who didn’t dare disappoint voters on either side of the bridge – the new Port Mann will have a toll to help pay for it. But look at what’s happened with the Golden Ears Bridge – the toll has been slashed and drivers are still staying away in droves!
While we may want more rapid transit, we simply lack the dollars for it. There’s not even a shovel in the ground yet for the Evergreen line SkyTrain extension, which I hate to remind readers has been on the drawing board for about two decades.
Give credit to Watts for coming out swinging for light rail. But until the shine comes off that shiny new bridge and freeway, I can’t see it happening.
- post by Mike. Follow @MikeKlassen or @24hoursvan on Twitter.