New SkyTrain along Fraser Highway could mean some logging of Green Timbers

May 17 2019, 4:59 am

There are renewed concerns over what rapid transit along Fraser Highway will mean for the strip of land adjacent to the roadway through Green Timbers Urban Forest in Surrey.

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A roughly 1.5-km-long section of Fraser Highway runs through the forested park, which also happens to be the same route the proposed SkyTrain extension will take between King George Station and Langley Centre.

Regardless of the rail transit technology chosen, whether it be the former plan for street-level LRT or the current plan for SkyTrain, trees along the edge of the roadway would have to be logged to make space for the required right-of-way required for the transit line.

Surrey Langley Fraser Highway SkyTrain

Route map of the SkyTrain Expo Line extension from King George Station to Langley Centre. (TransLink)

Don Schuetze, the president of the Green Timbers Heritage Society, believes the SkyTrain guideway running through the park will run at ground level instead of elevated, which also happens to be a suggestion made by Surrey mayor Doug McCallum to help control construction costs.

“There could be large concrete barriers on either side and a wire cage over the top,” Schuetze told Daily Hive. “Think of the Expo Line around 22nd Avenue Station, this really separates the park into smaller chunks.”

The group believes a wider swath of trees will have to be examined for any risk of falling; a wider buffer area will also be created so that trees will not come down on the guideway, which will necessitate more trees to be cut and pruned on either side for risk management.

“There are also unknown effects of large amounts of concrete on the hydrology of the area. All of this mass will push down, squeezing water sideways into the forest with unpredictable results,” he said.

It is also unclear whether the roadway in the area will be widened, he says, as Surrey is growing rapidly and there is “huge pressure” to increase roadway capacity. Fraser Highway is currently a two-lane roadway in the area.

Green Timbers Surrey

Fraser Highway runs diagonally through Green Timbers forest in Surrey. (Google Maps)

According to the group, this particular area of the forest has been untouched since the late 1920s, and as a result it has already been recognized by the municipal government as having historical value.

When inquired on how the SkyTrain project could impact Green Timbers, TransLink said mitigation will be an important priority.

“That is why we are planning to conduct a comprehensive Environmental Screening Review of the project. The project team is meeting with local sustainability advocates and participating First Nations, and completed a preliminary round of public engagement to gather feedback on possible issues and opportunities,” reads a released statement.

“If we receive approval from the Mayors’ Council in July to proceed with planning work, further public engagement will follow and will help to inform a sustainable and responsible plan.”

In January 2018, approximately 450 trees in Hawthorne Park were logged by the City of Surrey to make way for improved park space and a new roadway to help mitigate the loss in road capacity on 104 Avenue as a result of the now-cancelled Surrey Newton-Guildford LRT project.

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