British Columbia

Surrey mayoral race could determine future of city's LRT

Surrey voters won't just choose a new mayor and council when they go to the polls next month —their vote could also determine the future of a $1.65-billion light rail transportation system.

Candidates, as well as voters, are divided on the future of planned light rail transit system

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

Surrey voters won't just choose a new mayor and council when they go to the polls next month —their vote could also determine the future of a $1.65-billion light rail transit (LRT) system.

The city's planned LRT network would include 10 kilometres of two-way, street-level track with 11 stops between Newton Exchange, Surrey Central and the Guilford Exchange.

Similar systems are used around the world, including in Calgary, Edmonton, Ottawa and Toronto. Rail cars run in their own lanes and passengers board and disembark at street level at stops and intersections.

To supporters, it's the transit solution the city has desperately needed for decades — but critics say it's a slower, and still costly, SkyTrain knock-off.

Candidates divided on the issue

It turns out candidates are just as divided in their opinions as the community.

Bruce Hayne, the mayoral candidate for Integrity Now, said if he's voted in, he will not support the project.

"The pushback from the community is very, very strong and very, very loud. It seems to me that there's a vast majority of people in Surrey who simply don't want LRT. They prefer SkyTrain," he said.

Former mayor and Safe Surrey Coalition mayoral candidate Doug McCallum — who is fighting for his old job — also said, after hearing feedback from the community, he would not support LRT should he become mayor, .

"They want us to cancel the light rail. There's no contracts been landed. There's nothing been spent outside of doing some construction in Bear Creek Park and a little bit of utility movement on 104," he said.

But Surrey First mayoral hopeful Tom Gill says LRT has been studied for years, and that and delaying the project now would be a huge and expensive mistake.

"We finalized some of these LRT plans well over a decade ago under the leadership of previous mayor Watts. We've been working with researchers, we've been working with educators, we've been looking around the world at what's the best service for Surrey," he said.

Construction on the project is expected to take up to four years.

With files from Justin McElroy and Jesse Johnston

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