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Costs unknown before referendum

By Michael Mui, 24 Hours Vancouver

The costs for LRT in Surrey and the Broadway subway are still up in the air. (FILE PHOTO)

The costs for LRT in Surrey and the Broadway subway are still up in the air. (FILE PHOTO)

 

Now we’re optimistic we can get through the referendum ... you want to have the best information and the most current information available when we do that. — Bob Paddon, TransLink

 

Cost estimates for the multi-billion-dollar Surrey light rail transit and Vancouver Broadway subway projects will likely change after an expected transit funding referendum this spring.

On Wednesday, TransLink Mayors’ Council chairman Richard Walton said he expects a mail-in ballot referendum to begin in April or May — a specific date is expected to be set following a council vote on Dec. 11.

“You should have the question ... the source of revenue, and also quite specific time period, I think, on when exactly the referendum mail-in-ballot will be,” Walton said.

TransLink earlier provided estimates that the Broadway subway line would cost $1.98 billion with yearly operating costs of $22.3 million, and a $2.14 billion cost for LRT in Surrey, with $23.2 million in operating costs per year.

But those figures could change — and a new number likely won’t be available before the referendum, according to TransLink.

“It’s going to take at least half a year probably for the consultants to be able to complete the work. I just don’t think we’ll have this work completed prior to the conclusion of the referendum,” TransLink vice-president Bob Paddon said.

“If it can move faster, we’ll move faster.”

TransLink will be working with consultants on defining station locations, ridership and revenue forecasts and other specific details — among them new estimates for capital, operations and maintenance costs.

“The work (earlier estimates) we did was, again, several years ago. We want to bring it up to 2015 dollar estimates, and also just to get into a little more detail so to be able to move and begin negotiations with senior government on specific projects,” Paddon said.

“They (costs) may shift a bit, they may go up a bit, they may go down a bit. I really don’t know, and that’s why we need to get this next stage done.”

Paul Lee, rapid transit and strategic projects manager for the City of Surrey, said it’s usual that costs for major projects will shift. Estimates rarely hit the exact mark on final costs, he said, and won’t be known until a final bid price is chosen.

“Even the best cost estimates after years and years of study is still plus-or-minus 15%,” the engineer said.

“But I don’t see it doubling or tripling — it’ll bubble up and down 10%, 5% ... 5% of a large sum of money is still a lot of money, but I don’t think it’ll jeopardize what people are voting on.”

 

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