Surrey reaches deal to compensate TransLink with $39 million for cancelled LRT

May 29 2020, 12:47 pm

As one of the stipulations of the Mayors’ Council’s December 2018 decision to cancel the Surrey Newton-Guildford LRT project and shift its attention to the Surrey-Langley SkyTrain Expo Line project along Fraser Highway, the City of Surrey is required to compensate TransLink with the “unnecessarily expended” costs that went towards the years-long planning efforts for the street-level train that never materialized.

A year and a half later, both the municipal government and the public transit authority have reached a deal on how the city will compensate for “costs expended” on the LRT with “little residual value.” The Mayors’ Council approved the agreement in an in-camera meeting on Thursday.

According to a TransLink staff report, a total of $39 million has been agreed upon, in the forms of both cash and in-kind value that supports the Expo Line extension.

For a value of $11.4 million, city-owned properties will be given to TransLink for the statutory right-of-way use for the SkyTrain project, such as for stations, guideway structure, bus exchanges, and electricity substation buildings. The city will also make its property available for construction staging purposes.

Under the agreement and the terms of use, development on these sites can be permitted as long as it does not interfere with the transit infrastructure.

The SkyTrain project will also use the road dedications that were secured by the city in anticipation for rapid transit, worth $5.5 million. Additional lands that were dedicated by developers will be made available for project use at a nominal value.

For a value of $12.8 million, the city will make available 300 park-and-ride spaces next to the new SkyTrain stations. These spaces are forecast to generate 130,000 annual, incremental transit trips compared to a scenario without such facilities.

All of these spaces must be within a 400-metre radius from the stations, available on opening day, and available to transit users from 6 am to 6 pm. If the city decides to charge for parking, the price will not be increased without prior consultation with TransLink.

The municipal government will also provide TransLink with a cash payment of $9.3 million.

Another $5 million in compensation will be determined in the future and will be allocated towards the future King George Boulevard rapid transit project.

Widespread public opposition and support for SkyTrain prompted the cancellation of the $1.6 billion LRT project, with the Mayors’ Council collaborating with senior governments to reallocate all of the funding into the SkyTrain project to Fleetwood. The newly elected municipal government at the time had also made a campaign promise to cancel LRT in favour of SkyTrain.

Earlier this week, TransLink indicated it may have to delay its timeline for the SkyTrain project, as $1.1 billion of the redirected LRT funds is supported by the public transit authority, which is currently experiencing a fiscal crisis due to COVID-19. The remainder of about $500 million is from the federal government.

As well, both senior governments, preoccupied with the health crisis, have not met TransLink’s request for a business case approval by the end of May.

TransLink was hoping to complete the extension reaching at least Fleetwood by 2025, with construction beginning in 2022 following an 18-month procurement process.

By 2035, the initial seven-km-long, four-station phase to Fleetwood will attract about 40,000 daily boardings, while the full $3.1 billion, 16-km-long, eight-station extension will attract 62,000.

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