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Transportation, Urbanized, News

Richmond successfully raises $32 million to build Canada Line's new Capstan Station

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Kenneth Chan May 03, 2019 4:06 pm

The City of Richmond has reached and exceeded its original goal of raising the required funding to build Capstan Station on SkyTrain’s Canada Line.

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This new additional station — located near the northeast corner of the intersection of No. 3 Road and Capstan Way, roughly mid-way between Bridgeport Station and Aberdeen Station — is intended to help serve the growing transportation needs of the new dense residential developments being built in and around the area deemed by the municipal government as Capstan Village.

The original funding target to cover the entirety of the station’s estimated construction cost was $27.79 million (adjusted for inflation), and this was reached and exceeded in November 2018 with $28.4 million raised.

But the pool of available funding for Capstan Station has continued to grow; City of Richmond spokesperson Ted Townsend confirmed to Daily Hive the municipal government has, as of this month, raised about $32 million.

This is from both the development levy of each new condominium unit built around the area, as well as the municipal government’s accrued revenue from interest from strategically investing the raised funds.

Assuming the estimated cost of the project has not risen, the funding needed for the station was successfully raised in just six years, far ahead of the original 15-year schedule. In 2012, the municipal government made an agreement with Capstan Village developers to permit extra density in exchange for funding the planned station.

These new developments are expected to house between 13,000 and 16,000 residents upon full completion, plus new jobs from mixed-uses such as new retail, restaurants, and office.

Residential developments around Capstan Way Station. (Anton Lukashov / Capstan Village Study)

Residential developments around Capstan Way Station. (Anton Lukashov / Capstan Village Study)

Richmond city council initiated the station design process in November 2017, when it approved the release of $3.5 million in funding to TransLink to start design work, including $1.1 million for preliminary design.

TransLink concluded last year a procurement process seeking architectural firms to bid for the station’s design work, but it has yet to announce the selected firm at this time.

“We are in discussions with TransLink regarding implementation of our agreement in regards to the station,” said Townsend.

The ViewStar residential development by developer Yuanheng at the northwest corner of Capstan Way Station and No. 3 Road. The location of the future Capstan Station is depicted on the right. (Yuanheng)

Preliminary design elements for the station are not publicly known at this time, but previous city documents indicate the station could be integrated with the adjacent building developments on the ground level — similar to the relationship between the Marine Gateway mixed-use development and Marine Drive Station. An integration with the platform level is not desired.

Concord is the developer for the development site immediately adjacent to the station.

“This design would feature continuous weather protection and a seamless walking surface and appearance of surroundings to enhance passenger convenience, comfort and safety which is strongly supported by all parties,” reads an October 2017 City of Richmond staff report.

“TransLink is very supportive of an integrated design concept at the ground level provided that any necessary additional lands are provided and incremental integration costs are funded by sources other than TransLink. Depending on the final detailed design, it is possible that a ground level integrated station model may incur additional costs versus a standalone station.”

Another city document from 2012 stipulates this new station must use the existing Aberdeen Station and Lansdowne Station as the minimum design quality standard.

There is no updated timeline for the construction of this station, but the initial 15-year fundraising timeline set a target start for 2027.

Extreme challenges with new 57th Avenue Station and 33rd Avenue Station

Capstan Station is just one of four possible additional stations that can be built on the existing route of the Canada Line.

The 2009-completed SkyTrain line was designed, engineered, and built in a way that allows for underground stations to be added on Cambie Street at 33rd Avenue and 57th Avenue.

There have been some discussions to build the 57th Avenue Station with Onni Group as part of its 25-acre Pearson Dogwood redevelopment, with the developer promising to provide $20 million towards the cost of constructing the station.

But there have been some serious doubts over whether the 57th Avenue Station is financially and logistically feasible.

Location of the Canada Line’s new 57th Avenue Station in relation to the Pearson Dogwood redevelopment. (City of Vancouver)

Onni Group’s $20 million contribution alone is highly insufficient to cover the entire cost of a new subway station, and City of Vancouver staff, for this reason, have previously suggested that the financial contribution towards the station could instead be reallocated to other amenity priorities in the area.

To realize the station, the City of Vancouver is aiming to pursue additional funding from other area developers in exchange for their rezoning, including Petersen Group and Concert Properties’ 21-acre Langara Gardens redevelopment. This remains to be seen.

Even if funding challenges are overcome, significant technical challenges persist, despite the original built-in capability of adding a station, which is essentially established as a flat length of track.

A 2016 letter from TransLink staff to City of Vancouver staff reads: “Constructing a new below grade station on operable tracks is unprecedented and presents significant engineering challenges that increase the complexity of station construction.”

In the letter, the public transit authority stated early estimates of the construction cost for 57th Avenue Station hover at a staggering $90 million (2014 estimate), and the engineering complexities may require a construction timeline of at least 10 years.

For the same reasons, a new subway station at 33rd Avenue next to Queen Elizabeth Park may also face feasibility challenges.

Canada Line cut and cover tunnel construction

Cut-and-cover tunnel construction for the Canada Line along Cambie Street near Queen Elizabeth Park in 2006. (Canada Line Photography)

Additionally, TransLink notes the cost of building a new station is more than just the construction portion. The public transit authority states a third party would have to cover the cost of the “additional train fleet to maintain service hours to account for longer travel times, upgrades to train control and power systems, and changes to system wayfinding,” along with all operating costs, planning, engineering, and implementation costs.

There are also costs “associated with service disruption or slower total travel times resulting from station construction.”

The account of these ancillary costs beyond solely the station construction cost may shed some light on the extent of the years-long agreement negotiations that have been taking place between TransLink and the City of Richmond for Capstan Station.

Fourth possible new station would serve YVR

A fourth station is also possible on Sea Island — between YVR Airport Station and Sea Island Centre Station — as part of a possible future Vancouver International Airport expansion that involves the construction of a new additional ‘East Terminal’ building just east of the already-planned east expansion of the existing US transborder terminal wing.

This station would be situated just east of the area where the Canada Line guideway’s dual track merges into one track, and it would directly serve the new terminal expansion instead of requiring travellers and airport staff to walk a kilometre west to YVR Airport Station.

However, this station is likely still decades away, and is dependent on the airport pursuing this terminal expansion option after its current $9.1-billion, 20-year expansion.

Vancouver International Airport terminal expansion

East Terminal Building expansion concept for Vancouver International Airport showing the approximate location of the new additional Canada Line station. (Vancouver International Airport)

There are currently 16 stations along the whole Canada Line route. The trains are technically capable of running at higher speeds, but the service is currently operating at slower speeds to maintain frequency schedules.

Beginning this summer, the first of the 24 new cars (12 two-car trains) for the Canada Line will arrive, enabling higher frequencies — from every three minutes 20 seconds to every two minutes 30 seconds on the mainline between Waterfront Station and Bridgeport Station and from 6 minutes 40 seconds to every five minutes on the split spans from Bridgeport Station to Richmond-Brighouse Station and Brighouse Station to YVR Airport Station.

The upped frequencies will increase the Canada Line’s maximum capacity from 6,100 passengers per hour per direction (pphpd) to 8,000 pphpd.

Canada Line future stations

Canada Line route map showing possible four future station locations. (TransLink)

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