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Maple Ridge not ignored by mayors in TransLink transportation wish list
Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows haven’t been left off Metro Vancouver mayors’ 30-year transportation plan.
Bus service to Silver Valley, B-line service to SkyTrain, more West Coast Express trains, bike lanes and road funding are all part of the vision the Mayors’ Council on Regional Transportation forwarded to the province last week.
“There are some real benefits to Maple Ridge,” said Mayor Ernie Daykin.
For one, if the province accepts the vision and a way is found to pay for it, Maple Ridge would be able to share in $36 million annually in major road network funding. That’s money available on a matching basis and which would help the district keep arteries such as Abernethy Way or Dewdney Trunk Road in top shape.
“The other encouraging thing – they have included Silver Valley for expanding the basic network.”
That means the northern suburb will be on the list for transit when TransLink reviews its services.
Metro Vancouver mayors hammered out the $7.5-billion plan following a request by the province to come up with a vision as a prelude to the referendum on transportation funding.
The vision also calls for increasing West Coast Express service by adding five more passenger cars, plus an engine, by 2018. Another five cars would be added by 2024.
The commuter train to Vancouver currently offers only five rush-hour trips in the morning and five returning in the afternoon.
There’s no specific mention, however, of securing more track time or increasing frequency.
Daykin, though, points out, “At this point, it’s more trains or longer trains. By committing to rolling stock, which includes an engine, that positions us perhaps to have an extra train.”
TransLink’s current leasing contract for track time with CP Rail expires next year. Increasing the frequency of West Coast Express trains would require negotiation and leasing of more track time with CP Rail.
Daykin said the population in the area served by West Coast Express will grow by 62 per cent in the next 30 years.
When the Evergreen SkyTrain line opens in Coquitlam in 2016, there will be even more demand for West Coast Express service. Already, some trains are packed, Daykin said.
“The encouraging thing for me is the acknowledgement that that’s the reality in our community and they’re planning for it.”
B-Line service linking downtown Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows to the new Evergreen SkyTrain line that opens in Coquitlam in 2016 is also in the vision. TransLink recently announced it will start a study in September to find the best route.
However, downtown Maple Ridge could be skipped completely if one of the options, a B-line route from Coquitlam to Langley, is chosen instead.
One of the suggestions for funding is to siphon $250 million yearly from carbon tax revenues in Metro Vancouver.
But Transportation and Infrastructure Minister Todd Stone dismissed that out of hand just hours after the vision became public.
Pitt Meadows Mayor Deb Walters said she doesn’t know how the provincial government will react to the vision.
“We’ve made many suggestions to them over the past year and a half.
“We just want to create a transportation system that makes sense for our region.”
She didn’t think there was anything grandiose in the plan.
Walters pointed out the mayors’ council had no resources and relied on TransLink staff to write the vision, titled, Regional Transportation Investments: A Vision for Vancouver.
“I need to thank TransLink for working literally around the clock to help us prepare this.”
The mayors had only a few months to create the report.
“I think there may have been some doubt on the province’s part that we may actually pull it off,” Daykin added.
Other features of the plan including expanding SkyTrain to Arbutus Street in Vancouver, building light rail transit in Surrey and a new tolled four-lane Pattulo Bridge to New Westminster.
The expansion of SkyTrain to Arbutus Street in Vancouver and the building of light rail transit lines in Surrey require governments at all three levels to share in the costs.
“The feds and the province need to step up to the plate,” said Daykin.
Walters said mayors, for the first time, collaborated on creating a common vision instead of arguing against each for competing goals.
“It’s brought us closer together.”
Walters liked the suggestions for improving HandyDart service, the B-Line and for increased West Coast Express service.
“The idea is to get people out of their cars. But people in our area won’t leave their cars if they don’t have reliable transportation.”