Surrey-Langley SkyTrain business case approved by Mayors' Council

Jan 30 2020, 1:39 pm

Another milestone has been reached with the project to build the Fraser Highway extension of SkyTrain’s Expo Line, following TransLink’s Mayors’ Council’s decision this morning to approve the business case.

There is currently sufficient funding to build the first seven km and four stations of the extension, between the existing King George Station and 166 Street in Fleetwood.

This first stage of the project will cost $1.63 billion using funding previously allocated for the now-cancelled Surrey Newton-Guildford LRT, but this requires the provincial and federal governments formally approving the reallocation.

With the Mayors’ Council’s approval, the business case will now be forwarded to both senior governments for their consideration. TransLink is hoping the provincial and federal governments will approve the business case by the middle of 2020, which would lead to a final Mayors’ Council vote on changes to the 10-year investment plan.

Upon final approval, procurement will be conducted, taking about 18 months to complete, while construction, testing, and commissioning will require a further four years, bringing the extension’s opening to late 2025.

Unless an additional $1.5 billion is provided by senior governments within the year, the remaining nine km with four stations to Langley City Centre will have to be constructed in a second stage, but TransLink is aiming to construct the entire $3.1-billion, 16-km-long, eight-station project in a single stage given the cost efficiencies of doing so.

Fraser Highway SkyTrain King George Station Langley Centre

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

But the public transit authority is simultaneously planning the second stage route between Fleetwood and Langley City Centre so that procurement and construction can begin as soon as possible, after funding is confirmed.

During today’s meeting, TransLink staff reiterated the positive benefit-cost ratios (BCR) of both staging options, whether it be to Fleetwood or all the way to 203 Street in Langley City Centre.

The first stage to Fleetwood will attract 39,900 passengers by 2035 and holds a BCR of 1.12, while the full extension reaching Langley City Centre will attract 62,000 passengers by 2035 and holds a BCR of 1.24.

A BCR of over 1.0 indicates the range of transit passenger, environmental, and wider economic benefits surpass the project costs over a 30-year period. Comparatively, the BCR for the Canada Line was 1.25, and the Evergreen Extension was 1.27. The BCR for the proposed SFU Burnaby Mountain gondola is similarly high at 1.25.

As well, the projected ridership between King George Station and Fleetwood is comparable to the Evergreen Extension.

Staff also stated that not all of the trains running on Surrey’s existing Expo Line segment would travel beyond Surrey City Centre and onto the Fraser Highway extension, suggesting some of the trains will short turn.

As the extension will use the Expo Line’s long trains, planned frequencies are currently set at every six to eight minutes during peak periods, and every 10 to 15 minutes during off-peak periods.

Fraser Highway SkyTrain Corridor Planning Areas

2019-approved study area for the Fraser Highway SkyTrain Corridor Planning Areas review. (City of Surrey)

Some mayors also questioned the locations and current need for all of the planned stations, suggesting there could be less stations or deferred future stations to help reduce construction costs, but TransLink staff explained all of the stations are justified for the opening day business case.

Moreover, the average station space on the extension is two km, while the existing SkyTrain network currently has an average spacing of about 1.5 km.

“Typically these stations are located on arterial streets,” said Jeffrey Busby, the director of the Surrey-Langley SkyTrain Project for TransLink. “While it’s really important we provide lots of access for people to walk to stations, we’re predicting for this project that more than half of the eventual users will be arriving from beyond walking distance. That’s feeder bus service to arrive at SkyTrain stations, or they’ll arrive at other modes, being dropped off, and in this case for this project there will be some parking at some stations.”

“The pattern of arterial streets on the corridor generally dictates where the stations are located, and each of those stations are at a major north-south or east-west bus connection.”

152 Street Station, for instance, could become an important connection to SkyTrain for South Surrey residents travelling on the 152 Street corridor.

Additionally, the station locations align with the City of Surrey’s growth and densification plan, which is part of an agreement with TransLink to ensure the project achieves its intended objectives.

As well, for implementation when the project is fully built, the City of Langley has reached a draft memorandum of understanding for a potential major operations and maintenance centre in its jurisdiction to accommodate the needs of the growing train fleet on both the Expo and Millennium lines.

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