British Columbia

Surrey mayor hopes to ride city's new rails by 2023/2024

With the federal and provincial governments' re-announcements of their financial commitment to Surrey's long-awaited LRT project, Surrey Mayor Linda Hepner says she can finally follow through on a key election promise from her 2014 campaign, even if it's taken longer than she'd hoped.

Mayor Linda Hepner says coordinating different levels of government requires patience and time

This graphic of the proposed LRT line between Guildford and Newton in Surrey shows how the trains would be part of the streetscape. (TransLink)

With the federal and provincial governments' re-announcements of their financial commitment to Surrey's long-awaited LRT project, Surrey Mayor Linda Hepner says she can finally follow through on a key election promise from her 2014 campaign, even if it's taken longer than she'd hoped.

The $1.65 billion light rapid transit project will link the areas of Guildford, Surrey Central and Newton with 10 kilometres of two-way, street-level track. 

Hepner spoke with On the Coast host Gloria Macarenko about why it took so long and what to expect for future transit infrastructure in B.C.'s fastest growing community.

Surrey Mayor Linda Hepner says whoever replaces her as mayor needs to focus on developing a congestion strategy for the city. (CBC)

During the 2014 municipal election campaign, you promised the Surrey LRT project would be built by the end of your term. Here we are, with a bit more than a month to go and the money's finally in place. Why do you think it's been so difficult to get this investment lined up?

I was really optimistic, then we had a federal election, then a provincial election, not including an almost year-long referendum on transportation in the region. So all those things just culminated in a delay that I was not anticipating. 

It took the collaborative efforts of educating all the new partners at the table to make sure we had the collaborative efforts needed to bring this finally to fruition. 

What have you learned in the process about the challenging nature of bringing three levels of government together to fund big infrastructure projects?

That it takes time, it takes patience, and it takes willing partners at the table. It's been 10 years since we've seen real, significant infrastructure investments in the region and, quite frankly, in Surrey, it's been over 20 years.

We know the money is in place, so when will we see shovels in the ground? 

The importance of the announcement is that it had passed the treasuries of both the province and the feds, with an agreement of both participating at 40 per cent. 

Now we're requesting proposals [from contractors] on the LRT project.

When can Surrey residents expect to ride the new LRT line?

I hope to be on that train in 2023/2024.

You have a number of folks looking to follow in your footsteps as mayor. What would your advice be to them about getting the appropriate infrastructure in place for Surrey, and how to do it in a timely manner?
    
This is a TransLink project so you have to throw another agency into the mix and all of those things require time and patience.

Surrey is the fastest growing city in the province. How will your city continue to attract new residents if it does not have the infrastructure in place to serve them?

The mayor's plan wasn't just two major capital projects. It also included 900,000 hours of more bus service, 203 new SkyTrain cars and $75 million to our major road networks. It's all part of a puzzle and it all has to work together.

With this money now in place, and Surrey LRT an eventuality, what will be the most pressing transportation issues in Surrey?

Dealing with congestion and having a congestion strategy is important. Our local roads are as congested as our arterials. That is going to be critical.

This interview has been edited for clarity; you can listen to the full interview below.

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