Federal gas tax to fund more projects

Much of the federal gas tax transfers for Metro Vancouver in recent years went to TransLink
Much of the federal gas tax transfers for Metro Vancouver in recent years went to TransLink's purchase of replacement buses.
— image credit: Black Press file photo

Metro Vancouver cities will get a direct slice of federal gas tax revenues in the years ahead under a renewed agreement with Ottawa unveiled last week.

In past years, the money collected by the federal government at the pumps was returned and by agreement Metro's share automatically went to TransLink.

Now, TransLink is expected to get 95 per cent, but the transportation authority's requests will be subject to approval by Metro Vancouver.

The remaining five per cent will be divided on a per capita basis between local municipalities, which can spend it on various municipal projects.

Cities get a minimum of $50,000 in those Community Works Fund grants, so tiny Belcarra is guaranteed at least that much, while Coquitlam will get $410,000 a year initially and Surrey will receive $1.4 million. (See list of projected allocations here.)

Metro Vancouver board chair Greg Moore said regional politicians lobbied to regain control over the share flowing to TransLink after the province installed a private unelected board in 2008.

"When the original decision was made to put gas tax money into TransLink, the mayors were in charge of TransLink," Moore said. "Then the province changed the governance model and we were no longer in control of how the money we lobbied forĀ  and secured was being used."

Gas tax transfers in past years went mainly to new buses and SkyTrain cars.

Money still flowing to TransLink under the old gas tax agreement is expected to provide more than $100 million towards the replacement of 132 buses, the retrofit of the Surrey Transit Centre to take compressed naturlal gas buses and $14 million to buy out the leases on West Coast Express rail cars.

The spending on the natural gas retrofit was opposed at last Friday's Metro board meeting by Burnaby directors.

B.C. gets more than $2.7 billion in federal gas tax transfers over the life of the new 10-year agreement.

Previously limited to infrastructure projects, the money can also now go to culture, tourism, sport and recreation spending.

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