Surrey Mayor Linda Hepner is confident there will be shovels in the ground next year for the Surrey-Newton-Guildford LRT project.

"I was optimistic and the referendum delayed me but I fully expect to be in the ground next year on this light rail project," she told CBC's The Early Edition. "Yes, you can hold me to that."

Yesterday, TransLink and Metro Vancouver mayors announced consultations would begin later this month on the Surrey LRT project and the Broadway SkyTrain line in Vancouver.

The consultations are part of the region's $2-billion 10-year transit plan which Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson has called the biggest investment in regional transit since 2009.

A 'different conversation'

Hepner said the new consultations around the project — which she's calling the L-line — will not be an opportunity for light-rail critics to air their grievances.

"Please don't come to the meetings and talk about that because this decision has been made. The L-line is going ahead. It's going to be light rail," she said.

Surrey LRT Map

A map of the proposed Surrey-Newton-Guildford LRT project. (City of Surrey)

Hepner said this will be a "different conversation" going forward, and more specific than just whether people need more transportation.

"It's about where the stations are.... The movement of traffic and how our traffic management centre will deal with that. What are the speeds? What's going to happen in certain neighbourhoods?" she said.

Rapid transit necessary in Surrey: Hepner

Hepner called the light rail system one of the most sophisticated systems in the world that will put 200,000 people within five minutes of getting onto a rapid transit system.

"We're growing exponentially," she said. "Quite frankly, [rapid transit] is the only thing that's going to keep the region a livable region."

The big question mark is funding. Neither the provincial nor the federal government has confirmed specifically how much it will be allocating for the plan. 

But this did not dissuade Hepner.

"I believe that all of that technical work has been done and is complete, and I think that we could very easily move forward. I'm convinced of it."

The consultations begin on Jan. 24.

With files from The Early Edition


To listen to the interview, click on the link labelled Surrey Mayor Linda Hepner on new LRT consultations