Full Surrey-Langley SkyTrain extension will cost $3.1 billion: TransLink

Jul 20 2019, 12:18 am

After more than half a year of detailed analysis, TransLink has released new staging options and cost estimates for extending SkyTrain’s Expo Line on Fraser Highway from King George Station to Langley Centre.

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Currently, the public transit authority has $1.6 billion available in Phase Two funding for the project, which directly comes from the cancelled Surrey Newton-Guildford (SNG) project.

At this time, without further confirmed funding from Phase Three of the Mayors’ Council plan, this is insufficient to reach all the way to Langley Centre, but this is an achievable budget to reach Fleetwood. Here is the full breakdown and comparison:

  • Option 1: King George Station to Fleetwood
    • Length: 7 km
    • Number of new stations: 4 (reaching 166 Street)
    • Number of new train cars: 25
    • Average daily ridership: 39,900 in 2035; 44,200 in 2050
    • Construction cost: $1.63 billion
    • Benefit-cost ratio: 1.12
    • Annual operating cost: $17 million
    • Estimated annual fare revenue in 2035: $10.2 million
  • Option 2: King George Station to Clayton
    • Length: 11 km
    • Number of new stations: 5 (reaching 184 Street)
    • Number of new train cars: 35
    • Average daily ridership: 45,800 in 2035; 51,500 in 2050
    • Construction cost: $2.22 billion
    • Benefit-cost ratio: 1.17
    • Annual operating cost: $20.4 million
    • Estimated annual fare revenue in 2035: $13.8 million
  • Option 3: King George Station to Langley Centre
    • Length: 16 km
    • Number of new stations: 8 (reaching 203 Street)
    • Number of new train cars: 55
    • Average daily ridership: 62,000 in 2035; 71,200 in 2050
    • Construction cost: $3.12 billion
    • Benefit-cost ratio: 1.24
    • Annual operating cost: $32.4 million
    • Estimated annual fare revenue in 2035: $21.3 million

These figures are based on a SkyTrain guideway that is completely elevated along Fraser Highway. Further considerations will also need to be given to the area’s poor soil conditions, particularly through the Serpentine Valley.

A full extension provides a total of eight new stations; Surrey will see six new stations at 140 Street, 152 Street, 160 Street, 166 Street, 184 Street, and 190 Street, while the Township of Langley will receive a station at 196 Street and the City of Langley with the new Expo Line terminus station at 203 Street.

The end-to-end extension travel time from King George Station and Langley Centre is approximately 22 minutes, with trains running every four to five minutes during peak periods. An Option 1 extension reaching 166 Street at Fleetwood would have a travel time of just under 10 minutes.

The updated cost of a full extension to Langley Centre is now $3.12 billion, slightly up from the previous early estimate of $2.9 billion. This figure includes the cost of a new additional maintenance yard for the expanding train car fleet, likely in Langley.

Regardless, completing any form of rail rapid transit along the Fraser Highway corridor necessitates securing Phase Three funding, but TransLink previously allotted $3.5 billion for 27 kms of rapid transit in the south of Fraser.

Fraser Highway SkyTrain King George Station Langley Centre

2019 map of the Fraser Highway SkyTrain extension from King George Station to Langley Centre. (TransLink)

During a technical briefing with media this afternoon, TransLink management said today the decision to proceed any further with planning now depends on a Mayors’ Council decision next week, and the public transit authority is recommending that further planning be approved.

If the project passes this step of approval, there will be further public consultation this coming fall and winter. A final business case will be submitted to the provincial and federal governments for approval in early 2020, with the aim that both senior governments will approve the project by the end of the second quarter of 2020.

Procurement would occur from summer 2020 to fall 2021, and construction could begin in early 2022 for an opening in late 2025.

So far, since the SNG LRT’s cancellation late last fall, TransLink has been able to move quickly on project planning because of its significant experience with SkyTrain.

“I think it is a good project, and I think the Mayors’ Council will see it as a good project,” said TransLink CEO Kevin Desmond. “Any further delay will cause the project to become more expensive” due to inflation.

Desmond further emphasized any of the three staging options would make a “great project” and the benefit-cost ratio supports implementation for any of the options.

Comparatively, the cancelled SNG LRT project had a poor benefit-cost ratio of only 0.69 — far below the threshold of 1.0 for any benefit-cost ratio (based on ridership levels and economic considerations) to be considered good.

During similar planning phases for previous projects, it was determined that the Canada Line and Evergreen Extension had benefit-cost ratios of 1.25 and 1.27, respectively. The proposed SFU Burnaby Mountain gondola’s benefit-cost ratio is also high at 1.8.

Although there is a slightly higher than anticipated construction cost, Daryl Dela Cruz with the SkyTrain for Surrey advocacy group says the new updated figures and ridership forecasts still paint a highly positive long-term picture for the project given the immense benefits that exceed costs.

“Even a partial extension on the Fraser Highway corridor would offer significant increases in transit capacity and reduction of overcrowding. A SkyTrain extension to Fleetwood will also significantly shorten commutes, which can take as long as 30 minutes on a bus in rush hour, to less than 10 minutes,” said Dela Cruz in a released statement.

“SkyTrain for Surrey will be urging decision-makers at all levels to support and proceed with a full-length Surrey-Langley SkyTrain. In addition to strong public support cited by three different surveys, a positive benefit-cost ratio shows that this is an excellent transit project that will bring significant travel time reductions and economic development opportunities for South of Fraser cities.”

Earlier this year, TransLink released the results of a public engagement that received over 21,000 survey responses, with the vast majority of the respondents from Surrey and Langley residents. The survey found overwhelming support for the SkyTrain project — 82% in Surrey, 90% in the City of Langley, 92% in the Township of Langley, and 84% in the rest of Metro Vancouver.

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