Trudeau announces $1.3 billion for Surrey-Langley SkyTrain, confirms UBC support

Jul 9 2021, 6:57 pm

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced this morning $1.3 billion in federal funding for the Surrey-Langley SkyTrain, an extension of the Expo Line from Surrey City Centre to Langley Centre in a single phase.

“Places south of the Fraser River like Surrey and Langley are growing fast and have been for years. With more families choosing this as home, the demand for good and efficient transit has gone up,” said Trudeau during the press conference held at Surrey Civic Hall.

“Investing in a major project like the Surrey-SkyTrain extension is also good for the economy. Today’s project alone is expected to create thousands of well-paying jobs, so we’re cutting pollution and creating jobs for the people of BC.”

BC Premier John Horgan said the SkyTrain extension will allow Surrey and Langley to “not to chase growth, but to shape growth.”

The provincial government has taken over jurisdiction of the Surrey-Langley SkyTrain project from TransLink, and will now lead in its design, procurement, and implementation. Preliminary construction work will begin next week, on Tuesday, starting with utilities relocation and land clearing.

During last fall’s provincial election campaign, Horgan promised to expedite the project as a single phase to Langley Centre — instead of two separate stages, with the first stage only reaching Fleetwood — by bringing it under the fold of the BC Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure.

Major construction is expected to begin late next year for a completion in the middle of this decade. About 3,000 jobs will be created by the construction process. This means Metro Vancouver will have two simultaneous, partially-overlapping SkyTrain construction projects, with construction on the Millennium Line Broadway Extension now underway for a 2025 opening.

However, in a follow up after the press conference, the BC Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure told Daily Hive Urbanized the estimated project cost for Surrey-Langley SkyTrain is now $3.95 billion — over $800 million more than the previous estimate of $3.13 billion made by TransLink. It will be partially covered by reallocating $1.6 billion in funding previously allocated for the cancelled Surrey Newton-Guildford LRT.

Beyond the federal government’s commitment of $1.3 billion, the provincial government, TransLink, and the municipal government will cover the project’s remaining balance of $2.65 billion.

The Ministry stated TransLink’s lower cost estimate, made in 2019, was produced by a business case that was only for the then-planned first stage reaching Fleetwood.

“We need to do a new business case that incorporates the full scope of this major project that will take it all the way to Langley,” stated the Ministry.

This will be a 16-km-long, elevated extension of the Expo Line eastward along Fraser Highway from the existing King George Station in Surrey City Centre to 203 Street in Langley Centre.

There will be a total of eight new above-ground stations, as well as three bus exchanges, park-and-ride facilities, a major new additional train yard near the Langley end of the line, supporting system upgrades, and the acquisition of 30 additional SkyTrain cars.

Upon opening, it will have an initial capacity for 6,800 passengers per hour per direction, with ample room for long-term increases as demand grows. This capacity will be more than 10 times more than the existing bus services along the Fraser Highway corridor.

This new segment of the Expo Line is expected to have a travel time of about 22 minutes, which is over 25 minutes faster than existing buses. On a transfer-less, one-train Expo Line ride from Waterfront Station, it will take about 50 minutes to reach 166 Street Station in Fleetwood and about one hour to reach the new terminus at 203 Street in Langley Centre.

Ridership along the extension is expected to grow to 62,000 daily passengers by 2035, and 71,200 by 2050. About 24,000 to 30,000 passengers are expected to be new public transit users who previously used other modes of transportation, particularly private vehicles.

surrey langley skytrain route map stages

Map of the two stages of the Surrey-Langley SkyTrain Extension. (TransLink)

“It’s a great time for Surrey! In my 12 years as mayor, I have never been so excited,” exclaimed Surrey mayor Doug McCallum. “Today is a tremendous for Surrey, we’ve been waiting for a long time of an expansion of SkyTrain in our city. In fact, it has been 27 years since the last time we last put tracks down in our city.”

This fulfills one of the key campaign promises made by McCallum during the 2018 civic election, when he vowed to cancel the street-level LRT project in favour of reviving the original plans for SkyTrain along the Fraser Highway corridor.

“Every new stop built for Surrey-Langley SkyTrain translates to new ridership, and especially less cars on the road,” continued McCallum.

“This rapid transit project will connect people South of the Fraser to more housing, employment, schools services, and encourage higher density, mixed-use development all around the SkyTrain stations.”

As well, both the federal and provincial governments will each cover 40% of the cost of detailed planning and business case work for the planned SkyTrain Millennium Line extension from the future Arbutus Station to the University of British Columbia campus. This work is estimated to cost between $30 million and $40 million.

An extension of the Millennium Line from Arbutus Street to the UBC campus is roughly seven km, with early concepts including as many as five stations. From UBC, it would be a 10-minute train ride to Arbutus, 20 minutes to Commercial-Broadway Station, and about one hour to Lafarge Lake-Douglas Station in Coquitlam Town Centre.

“This project will save time for people who travel between UBC and other parts of the city,” said Trudeau.

By 2045, the segment of the Millennium Line from VCC-Clark Station to UBC is expected to reach 193,000 daily boardings, with 119,000 daily boardings coming from the span between Arbutus Station and UBC.

When the Millennium Line Broadway Extension reaching Arbutus opens in 2025, the truncated 99 B-Line route from Arbutus to UBC is expected to reach capacity during the peak hours.

Early estimates previously pegged the Millennium Line extension from Arbutus to UBC at a cost of $4.1 billion to $4.8 billion. At this early stage of planning, with route and station locations yet to be established, funding for this project has not been secured.

“Today’s news that both the Government of Canada and British Columbia will fund the business case study for the UBC extension project is another important step forward for this critical project,” said Vancouver mayor Kennedy Stewart.

“I think we can all agree that connecting UBC to the rest of Metro Vancouver, all the way to Langley thanks to the new Surrey-Langley SkyTrain, is an important project for our entire region — indeed it’s important for the entire province. That’s because the Broadway Corridor, including UBC as its Western anchor, is BC’s second largest employment centre.”

Friday’s transit announcement for Metro Vancouver was made in the backdrop of a much-speculated fall federal election.

Over the past few weeks, the federal government has made major public transit investments in other regions, including about $12 billion in mid-May for five rail projects in Toronto and Hamilton, about $500-million on Tuesday to upgrade VIA Rail’s service on the Toronto-Quebec City corridor with higher frequencies and improved speeds, and $1.53 billion on Wednesday for Calgary’s Green Line LRT.

UBC SkyTrain

Map route of the proposed Millennium Line extension to UBC. (UBC)

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