Abbotsford Mayor Henry Braun, seen here at a recent housing event, has announced his plans to seek re-election this fall. File photo

Cities shouldn’t be on hook for highway interchanges, Abbotsford mayor says

Braun says feds and province shouldn’t be relying on municipal tax dollars for highway projects

Abbotsford might be able to afford hundreds of millions of dollars worth of infrastructure spending over the next two and a half decades, but that doesn’t mean it should have to dig out of its own coffers to pay for all the infrastructure improvements the city needs, Mayor Henry Braun said recently.

The draft of the city’s new transportation master plan, which lays out $350 million worth of infrastructure projects over the next two and a half decades, was recently presented to council. The bulk of that money – around $250 million – would be spent on improvements to the city’s road network.

Braun acknowledged that the plan included “big numbers,” but added that “when you break that down over 25 years, that becomes much more manageable.”

The city’s capital reserves have grown dramatically in recent years, with the largest reserve fund growing by $13.6 million between 2016 and 2017. Still, Braun said too much is expected of municipalities by federal and provincial politicians.

The largest chunks of spending in the plan include Abbotsford’s expected share of the cost to upgrade highway interchanges through the city. But Braun suggested that expectation is unfair, given municipalities bring in a fraction of the tax revenue of the feds or province.

“We shouldn’t be having to contribute to Highway 1 interchanges and a few other things that we do,” he said. “But for us to get it, the only way to get it is by participating. Which means we take away funds from our own internal budget and use them for things that traditionally have been paid for by senior levels of government.”

Braun called for more discussions with senior levels of government and said he intends to “spend more time in Ottawa and Victoria” to deliver that message.

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