The TransLink mayors’ council has finalized a referendum question that could shape the future of Metro Vancouver transportation.

The mail-in ballot will ask whether the public supports a 0.5 per cent PST hike, which would help fund a Broadway SkyTrain line in Vancouver, light rail in Surrey, the new Pattullo Bridge, additional buses on busy routes, general road maintenance and other projects.

Residents of Metro Vancouver will be the only ones voting on the referendum, and the tax increase would only apply to that region.

The mayors' council estimates the PST hike would cost households $125 per year.

A coalition of business, labour and environmental groups will be encouraging the public to vote yes, highlighting the growing problem of crippling traffic congestion.

“Doing nothing is not an option,” Iain Black of the Vancouver Board of Trade said at a mayors’ council meeting Thursday.

But opponents, including the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, fear the funding won’t go to good use.

“TransLink wastes so much of our money, and now the mayors want to give them $250 million a year more,” the federation’s B.C. director Jordan Bateman said.

The council admits TransLink has a public relations problem, and will be promising to audit the transit provider on the ballot.

The referendum question still has to be approved by the province. Transportation Minister Todd Stone said the government may tweak the language, but he expects the public will be voting on the issue next year.

“The mayors have hit the mark for the most part with this question,” Stone said.

The ballot wording as approved by the mayors is: “Do you support a one half percentage point (0.5%) increase to the Provincial Sales Tax in Metro Vancouver, dedicated to the Mayors’ Transportation and Transit Plan, with independent audits and public reporting?”

The government won’t be funding a campaign to support or oppose the question, but Stone said he’ll be spreading the word that it’s crucial to get more transit in the region.

With a report from CTV Vancouver’s Mi-Jung Lee