The decision to cancel light rail in favour of SkyTrain didn’t do the Semiahmoo Peninsula any favours, says White Rock Mayor Darryl Walker.
“It really takes it farther away from South Surrey and especially White Rock, our communities, and taking it off toward Langley,” Walker told Peace Arch News Monday.
“I think it really sets South Surrey and White Rock back a number of years, lord knows how many that might be. I was effectively opposed.”
Walker was among Lower Mainland mayors to vote last week against moving ahead with “planning and project development work” for SkyTrain along Fraser Highway.
The vote, held Thursday at the Mayors’ Council on Regional Transportation meeting, followed heated, divisive debate over whether Surrey should be allowed to completely rejig South of the Fraser transit plans, after the city’s new council voted last month to clear light rail from the table.
Walker said that while Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum “has the right” to ask for change – given the mandate he believes his council received in October’s election – for him, key concerns are that residents of White Rock and South Surrey can access whatever system is in place, and that there is enough funding to make that aspect happen.
“For now, it puts us in a position where I think the best Surrey and White Rock can expect is that we need B-lines to connecting stations for us to get into the transit system,” Walker said.
“That’s what we need to focus on now. Whether it’s two years or 10 years to us doesn’t necessarily matter as much as what we want for the next year or so, and that is more buses to get the people who live in this area to wherever they want to be and into the transit system.”
Regarding whether Surrey should repay the $56 million already spent on light rail work for the now-cancelled Surrey-Newton-Guildford line, Walker said it “seems reasonable.”
At Thursday’s meeting, Coquitlam Mayor Richard Stewart was among mayors to insist that Surrey pay the funds back, noting that his city had helped fund city-specific transit improvements to regional plans in the past.
Walker told PAN it seems that “precedent has been set.”
“Coquitlam was expected to pay for whatever that change would cost,” he said. “They (Surrey) are the ones that are kind of driving the bus on this change, so I think it’s fair that they’re responsible for whatever the additional cost would be.”
The mayors eventually agreed that Surrey would “compensate” the Mayors’ Council for the “unnecessarily expended” costs that arose from cancelling light rail before any SkyTrain plans go ahead.