Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum isn’t going to completely lose face.
McCallum is getting the new SkyTrain line he promised in the election last year, but not all of it.
During the campaign, McCallum told voters he will use the $1.6 billion allocated for light rail in the city to build a SkyTrain Line from the current King George Station to Langley.
Now it turns out that money is not enough.
It’s good only for King George Station to Fleetwood, and this is what McCallum is going to have.
In a meeting Thursday (July 25), the Mayors’ Council on Regional Transportation endorsed the extension of the Expo Line to Fleetwood.
However, the vote was not unanimous.
Some mayors in the region opposed the switch to the more expensive SkyTrain from the light rail system previously approved by the council before McCallum returned as Surrey mayor.
Mayor Mike Little of the District of North Vancouver was one of the more vocal critics of the SkyTrain project.
“This is fuelling sprawl,” Little said during the mayors’ council meeting.
According to Little, the SkyTrain will only make Surrey a “bedroom community”, where people live but work elsewhere, particularly in Vancouver.
Mayor Richard Stewart of Coquitlam also doesn’t like it.
“This isn’t the way to do it,” Stewart said.
Mayor Brad West of Port Coquitlam shares the same concerns expressed by Mayor Little of the District of North Vancouver.
However, West in the end declared during the meeting that voting against the project will only cause “unnecessary delay”.
West noted that a weighted vote can be called, and with this, the bigger municipalities, which wield more votes, like Surrey and Vancouver will have their way.
As West said, there’s no point in playing “games”.
Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart was not present during the meeting, and if the project was defeated, West noted that it can be approved another time because of the weighted vote system.
McCallum reminded mayors that SkyTrain enjoys an “astonishing” level of public support in Surrey as well as in the region.
“The region recognizes as a region where the growth is,” McCallum said.
McCallum also assured mayors that the Surrey project will not take away funds for transit projects in other municipalities.
“That’s not going to happen,” according to the Surrey mayor.
Under the previous plan of the mayors’ council, 27 kilometres of rapid transit will be built in Surrey and Langley.
All in all, the supposed South of the Fraser Rapid Transit was supposed to cost $3.5 billion.
One component was an 11-kilometre ad L-shaped light rail line connecting Surrey City Centre to Guildford and Newton.
This light rail line was supposed to cost $1.6 billion, and the funds were already available. Then the 2018 election came, and McCallum campaigned on a promise to building SkyTrain up to Langley instead.
Going back to the original plan, the mayors’ council had intended another light rail line along Fraser Highway going to Langley at a cost of $1.9 billion. The money for this is not yet around.
New Westminster Mayor Jonathan Cote chairs the mayors’ council, and he described the King George to Fleetwood extension as a “good” transit project.
Cote moved the motion supporting line, and this was seconded by council vice chair and Township of Langley Jack Froese.
In his remarks, Froese noted that the objective of building rapid transit to Langley is a “regional thing”, and not just a “Langley thing”.
“It has to happen in pieces,” Froese said.
Mayor Val van den Broek of the City of Langley told council members that the SkyTrain extension meets multiple objectives, from increasing transit ridership to the creation of new housing and addressing climate change.
Mayor Linda Buchanan of the City of North Vancouver said that mayors cannot force municipalities to do what they do not want.
In the case of Surrey, voters wanted SkyTrain and elected McCallum, who pledged a new SkyTrain.
Addressing McCallum, Buchanan said: “I know that you campaigned on this.”
For Mayor Mary-Ann Booth of the District of West Vancouver, she supported SkyTrain because that is what Surrey residents want.
And with that, it's also in "respect" for McCallum for representing what his constituents wish for, according to Booth.