PMH1 project will define South Fraser cities for near term

Post by Mike Klassen in

9 comments

PGC_Port_Mann
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.

9 Comments

Maybe Surrey will find a way to pay for its own light transit system while of course avoiding contributing to the Evergreen Line. The TransLink financing model has had its wheels fall off.
And if Vancouver thinks an expensive underground transit line from Commercial to UBC is a priority, then maybe the taxpayers from Vancouver should dig a bit deeper into their change purses to pay for it.

Mike,

In one line you say we lack the money to build transit but a mere two paragraphs prior you point out we're spending billions on highway expansion.

The money is there, we're just pissing it away.

@bobh That makes short term sense, but we still need an integrated regional transit plan and new funding models. Are there ideas for new funding models?

@Mike Is there anything that can or should be done to modify the Port Mann Bridge Project?

Taxation withour representation is tyranny.

Given the apparent apathy of the electorate and the pointlessness (and expense) of protest or consultation, "tyranny" may be a bit strong but it's an effective way to eliminate the budget deficit, which kills jobs, services and economic growth. It's not like anyone is going to agree to higher taxes or spending cuts, but they're coming one way or another, and sooner than you think.

Look at what's happening on the financial markets. Imagine you're a big bank or investmest firm and a guy named Premier Adrian Dix asks you under-write a big bond issue to pay for pharmacare or thousands of govenment housing projects or some such boondoggle, secured by the promise to increase corporate and personal income taxes. How many points will it cost him?

And that's not tyranny?

I lived in Northern California before coming to live in Cloverdale. Down there, developers, and ultimately the home buyers were charged a large fee to secure a development permit. That fee which often approached $50,000 per home or condo unit was intended to pay for added burdens to the water and sewer distribution system and expansion of road and transit systems. That is one way to start applying revenues to the causes of the added costs. Then of course the use of tolls for the users of roads and bridges is an appropriate way to raise revenues. And our civic property tax structure in Surrey has significant room to raise needed funds for a light rail system. Our civic property taxes are cheap.

Communities south of the Fraser need to get out of Translink then use the money currently subsidizing Vancouver to build their own light rail systems and improve bus service. Vancouver/Burnaby have great transit while Langley/Surrey's are awful. The irony is great transit north of the river is paid for by gas taxes from people south of the river who really have no choice but driving. And to add insult to injury; a new Port Mann bridge toll but no toll on the Ski to Sea highway or Pitt River bridge.

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