It's been a few months since there were any significant announcements on the proposed transportation megaprojects overseen by TransLink — but that could be about to change.
Over the next month, TransLink will try to reach an agreement on provincial funding for the Pattullo Bridge, finalize a business case for both the Millennium Line extension in Vancouver and LRT expansion in Surrey and decide the mechanism for how local governments will pay for all three projects.
"We've got to nail down all the agreements with the federal government on their stated commitment of $2.2 billion, nail down all the commitments and understandings from the provincial government, which has commitments to fund the transit program and then understand what the regional piece is. So, that's a lot of work to do," said TransLink CEO Kevin Desmond, after presenting an update to the Mayors' Council.
"It's an aggressive timeline, but we're working hard."
- Mayors announce fare hikes, property tax increases to pay for transit upgrades
- Federal budget allocates billions for transit and housing in B.C.
The three projects form the backbone of TransLink's 10-year transportation plan, approved by the Mayors' Council in November 2016. But while significant planning and financial analysis has taken place, a funding model has yet to be finalized.
"The key piece is obviously getting around to some quick conclusions on both funding and scope for this plan," said Geoff Cross, TransLink's vice president of planning.
"I think all three levels of government are motivated to be on that time track."
Revenue from tolls needs to be replaced
TransLink says the timeline to replace the aging Pattullo is the most urgent of its short-term priorities.
A four-lane bridge, completed by 2023, with 40 per cent of the funding paid for by the provincial government is still its preferred vision. However, the previous funding model called for tolls on the bridge as part of the funding model.
TransLink is hoping the NDP government's decision to ban tolls will be counterbalanced by an increase in funding from them.
- Tolls to be eliminated on Port Mann and Golden Ears bridges
- Ending tolls snarls traffic on Port Mann, Golden Ears bridges
"Given that the tolls were removed on the [bridges] and we're not looking at [new] tolls at this point ... we would be looking for a backstop for the provincial government on that funding, until such time that another long-term funding source would be in place, whether that be mobility pricing or otherwise," said Cross.
It's also unknown how changing traffic patterns could impact designs, now that tolls have been removed.
"It does impact our infrastructure requirements, and the way we think about capacity requirement," said Cross.
"The dynamic that we need to model is, without pricing in place, how much overall traffic will there be? And what does it mean to the capacity we're planning?"
'There's no reason to delay the project'
Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan expressed concern at the raft of important decisions the Mayors' Council would have to approve in the next few months and the lack of time to consider the reports issued by TransLink.
"There's a separate board that is working on these issues and all we get is a brief opportunity to consider paying for it," said Corrigan, who verbally sparred with Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson — who chairs the Mayors' council — over his lack of time to question TransLink executives on a number of proposed initiatives during the meeting.
"Many of these decisions are made at these kinds of meetings where there isn't the opportunity to go into any kind of depth or understand the basis for those decisions. That's what I'm complaining about."
But on the subject of the Pattullo Bridge, New Westminster Mayor Jonathan Cote said the time for extended discussion was over.
"There's no reason to delay the project," he said.
" I think both the provincial government and TransLink recognize the urgency around decisions around the Pattullo."