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Pitt Meadows mayor: ‘TransLink, open your books’
Pitt Meadows Mayor Deb Walters is backing Surrey Mayor Diane Watts in calling for a full audit on TransLink before any increase to the transit levy is dumped on homeowners.
“I agree. I want to see an audit done,” said Walters. “We want to see where the money’s going.”
The Mayors Council on Regional Transportation last month renewed its initial demand last fall for an audit of TransLink, either through B.C.’s Auditor General or the new Auditor General of Local Government.
Walters would also like to review putting more tolls on bridges and roads. Currently, only Golden Ears Bridge has tolls, as will the Port Mann Bridge when it’s completed later this year.
Tolls shouldn’t have been removed from the Coquihalla Highway, she said, and that they should have been added to the Sea to Sky Highway when upgraded.
Maple Ridge Mayor Ernie Daykin was surprised at Watts’ demand.
An average $23 increase to the levy kicks in 2013 as an interim measure until new funding sources, either more tolls or a vehicle levy, are approved.
Daykin’s not sure what would be the impact of rejecting that increase and isn’t sure if he’d back Watts.
If TransLink’s supplemental plan gets blocked, Maple Ridge could lose the $900,000 annually it gets for major road construction as well as a commitment to pay for half of a portion of the widening of Abernethy Way.
He pointed out that TransLink went through an audit a few years ago, which resulted in layoffs of senior staff.
A two-cent increase in the TransLink’s gas tax takes effect in April, but that will generate only about half of what’s required in its budget plan.
But Watts refuses to be part of that debate until an audit proceeds – something the provincial government has so far blocked.
Daykin said he’d also consider more widespread tolls on roads and bridges, and that there’s been discussions about tolling all the bridges in Metro Vancouver.
A vehicle levy and more provincial money should also be considered, he added.
He pointed out people in Abbotsford don’t pay anything into TransLink, yet use its roads and account for 30 per cent of the passenger load on the West Coast Express.
Perhaps a vehicle levy could be scaled by region, according to the level of service in each area.
According to TransLink’s 2012 business plan, toll revenues for the Golden Ears Bridge are paying for only half the operating costs of the $808-million bridge opened in June 2009.
The budget for 2012 calls for toll revenues of $39 million while financing costs, payments to the bridge builder, payments to the toll operator and maintenance costs came to $80 million.
As result, TransLink will be pouring in an additional $41 million in 2012 for the bridge costs.