There’s no doubt that Surrey (both public and private sectors) has made a major commitment to the growth of its regional town centre – the once-languishing strip mall known as Whalley. No longer.
Here’s a link to major projects (43 in all) – and, below, just the developments around the new City Hall (30) and along 104 Avenue:
Surrey’s transportation plan calls for a major transit commitment to complement this growth – in particular, three light-rail lines that would serve the corridors (104 Ave, King George Boulevard and Fraser Highway) feeding into Surrey City Centre. In the short term, TransLink was to have gone ahead with a B-Line rapidbus service on King George, leading the way on shaping growth appropriate to the 21st century.
All on hold, as explained below.
What takes the current quandary beyond just sad into the tragic is the likelihood that south of the Fraser we will see the biggest expansion of road capacity in a generation, further locking the fastest growing parts of the region into car-dependence. To add insult: no express bus service across the new Port Mann Bridge – an argument used by Transportation Minister Kevin Falcon at the time to rationalize this Gateway project as ‘sustainable transportation.’
There was also the argument that the bridge would be tolled, thereby avoiding the likelihood that the new lanes and expanded Highway 1 would quickly congest by inducing more traffic.
Prediction: there will be no tolls on the Port Mann Bridge. A wiser observer than me argues that the Province will suspend its commitment to tolling in reponse to complaints from New Westminster that there will be too much pressure on the free alternative, the Pattullo Bridge; and complaints from those South of the Fraser that they are being discriminated against, having the only toll bridges in the region. Not to mention, of course, that there’s an election coming up.
Expect, says my source, a task force charged with studying the problem in order to avoid a political firestorm. And in the event that the Liberals lose, they will have left a poison pill for the incoming government who would have to either impose the tolls or find another funding source to pay for the bridge. Leaving no money for more transit.
But an election is also a time for policy commitments. The people of Surrey (supported by the rest of the region) must now get their representatives, elected and aspiring, to follow through on the regional and local plans that have been in place for a generation – for complete communities served by rapid transit.
The reality can be seen on the construction sites of Surrey City Centre. The politics must follow.