Chair Derek Corrigan, left, and executive director Michael Buda, right, speak at a Mayors’ Council meeting in New Westminster on Thursday. (Katya Slepian/Black Press)

Corrigan ‘confident’ B.C. budget will help mayors fill 15% transportation funding gap

Council needs to $60-70 million in annual cash by March to avoid extra costs

Metro Vancouver mayors have identified a 15-per-cent funding gap in the current phase of their 10-year vision for regional transportation, but Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan says he’s confident the province will help in next week’s budget.

Tuesday’s Throne Speech painted in broad strokes the government’s upcoming spending plans with a focus on housing and childcare, but made little mention of the region’s transportation funding woes.

Reading the government’s plan, however, Lt. Gov. Judith Guichon did refer to the 81-year-old Pattullo Bridge, saying the government is “moving quickly” to replace it.

The aging bridge is one of the many projects in the vision’s second phase for which mayors have struggled with how to pay, especially since the NDP nixed bridge tolls back in September.

Corrigan, the new chair of the mayors’ council on transportation, suggested at the council’s meeting on Thursday that the province might be looking at other funding methods.

“[Municipal Affairs Minister] Selina Robinson phoned me personally yesterday to assure me that even though the Pattullo was specifically mentioned, that did not mean that there was any less intent to solve the problems in regard to TransLink and moving the mayors’ vision ahead.”

The federal and provincial governments will each contribute 40 per cent to projects in the plan’s second phase, which includes a new Pattullo bridge, the construction of Surrey light rail, and upgrades to the Millennium and Expo SkyTrain lines.

READ: Delta’s mayor fights for light rail out to Chilliwack

TransLink’s share is 30 per cent of the capital costs and all of the operational costs. The mayors’ options to raise this include increasing property taxes, gas taxes and parking taxes, and creating vehicle levies.

So far, they’ve confirmed just over half – about $130 million a year – leaving a hole of about $60-70 million a year.

What’s more, Corrigan added the mayors would need to move quickly to approve a plan ahead of a self-imposed July deadline, so as to avoid a $10-million-a-month inflationary cost.

If the 15-per-cent hole can’t be filled, mayors’ council executive director Mike Buda said three options remain: cut costs by reducing the scope of the plan, stretch it over more than 10 years, or delay phase two until 2019 or later.

An independent commission set up by the mayors’ council to look into mobility pricing is currently studying two options: distance-based charges and congestion point charges. But Corrigan said any such solution would take years to implement.


@katslepian

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