While construction is confirmed to officially begin this fall on the $2.83 billion Broadway Extension of SkyTrain Millennium Line, the Surrey-Langley SkyTrain is still in the detailed planning stage.
But the South of Fraser project is also expected to reach a new milestone soon, as indicated by Premier John Horgan in a press conference today on the Broadway Extension.
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Horgan said discussions are currently still underway on this Expo Line extension along Fraser Highway towards Langley, and that an announcement on this project can be expected “shortly.”
It remains to be seen if the extension will be built in two phases or a single big phase, especially with the current fiscal pressures of TransLink and senior governments.
A single phase would build seven km of new SkyTrain route and four stations reaching Fleetwood at a cost of $1.63 billion, using funds from the cancelled Surrey Newton-Guildford LRT.
Prior to COVID-19, both senior governments were expected to approve TransLink’s new business case for Fleetwood Extension by the end of spring. This has yet to be accomplished.
As well, TransLink’s new budgetary issues are problematic for achieving this project. Based on the funding formula from the cancelled LRT plan, the public transit authority’s share of funding the construction of the Surrey-Langley SkyTrain is $1.1 billion, whereas the federal government’s share is about $500 million. The Broadway Extension, in contrast, is entirely funded by the senior governments without any funding contribution from TransLink.
Proceeding with the extension to Fleetwood necessitates the resolution of TransLink’s majority share of the project’s funding. TransLink is expected to provide an update to its investment plan this fall.
Another $1.5 billion is required for the remaining nine-km-long route with four additional stations between Fleetwood and Langley Centre. This would be the second future phase of the project, if funding is unavailable.
Earlier this year, the federal government noted it was planning an unprecedented infusion of infrastructure spending to help stimulate the economy, with an announcement slated for this fall. This is expected to include funding for major public transit investments.
Prior to COVID-19, depending on funding availability and senior government approvals, TransLink was targeting launching the bidding process for a construction contractor in 2021, and starting construction in early 2022 for an opening in 2025.
Questions were also raised in today’s press conference on bringing the Millennium Line westward from its future terminus at Arbutus Station to the University of British Columbia’s (UBC) campus.
But this UBC extension is much further behind in planning compared to the Surrey-Langley project, which already has completed its detailed technical work for a supportive business case. No precise routing or station locations have been established. It is also unclear whether the extension could be elevated west of Blanca Street.
In early 2019, Vancouver City Council and the Mayors’ Council approved the preliminary planning of a SkyTrain extension for the remaining route to UBC. The Mayors’ Council at the time freed up $3 million for early planning, and prior to the pandemic they were expected to allocate another $30 million to $40 million this year to perform detailed technical work and the creation of the business case.
Early this year, the municipal government, UBC, and the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh Development Corporation — the owner and developer of the Jericho Lands — reached an agreement to support the extension to UBC.
On the matter of UBC, Horgan added that he met with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Monday and discussed “a range of options including further infrastructure investments” that are “joint ventured” between the federal and provincial governments.
“So I’m confident once we get this Broadway Extension underway, we’ll start immediately on the planning of the extension beyond to UBC,” he said.
TransLink anticipates an Expo Line extension from King George Station to only Fleetwood — a travel time of under 10 minutes — will attract daily boardings of about 40,000 by 2035. A full extension to Langley Centre, with a travel time of 22 minutes, will see 62,000 daily boardings by 2035.
At the other end of the SkyTrain network, the approved and funded SkyTrain extension from VCC-Clark Station to Arbutus Street will attract about 140,000 daily boardings upon opening in 2025, and grow to 193,000 daily boardings by 2045.
The remaining segment from the future Arbutus Station to UBC — about seven kms in length — will attract approximately 119,000 daily boardings by 2045.
This would bring the total ridership of the Millennium Line segment from VCC-Clark Station to UBC to 311,500 daily boardings — about twice the 2019 ridership of the entire Canada Line.
On a transfer-less, one-train SkyTrain ride, the travel time to UBC will be roughly 10 minutes from Arbutus, about 20 minutes from VCC-Clark Station to UBC, and less than an hour from Lafarge Lake-Douglas Station.
The estimated construction cost for SkyTrain to UBC is between $2.8 billion and $3.2 billion in 2018 dollars.