TransLink 2017 - Part 6: No going back, Surrey light rail can't become SkyTrain

Jan 3 2018, 6:19 am

‘TransLink 2017’ is a six-part Daily Hive end-of-year series on the state and future of Metro Vancouver’s public transit system, based on our recent extensive interview with TransLink CEO Kevin Desmond.

Part 6 discusses the possibility of Surrey’s light rail project being changed into an extension of existing SkyTrain infrastructure.

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The head of Metro Vancouver’s public transit authority dismissed any suggestion that Surrey’s planned Newton-Guildford light rail line could be converted into a SkyTrain project.

TransLink CEO Kevin Desmond told Daily Hive that the organization intends to fulfill the 10-year plan approved by the Mayors’ Council more than a year ago. This includes a ground-level, 11-km-long light rail transit project running between Guildford, Whalley, and Newton in Surrey, as stipulated by the City of Surrey.

“I don’t see any turning back on that,” he said. “The Mayors’ plan is light rail in Surrey, so the first line is the L line.”

But he hinted that plans for the future second phase of the project – a 16-km line along Fraser Highway from King George Station to Langley – are still somewhat fluid.

“There are still some discussions out there on what happens to Langley,” said Desmond. “The Mayors’ Council’s plan is to extend surface light rail to Langley, and SkyTrain would be more expensive. So right now, all of our planning assumes it’s surface light rail for the next phase to Langley.”

TransLink has not revealed the latest cost estimate for the project, but both phases are expected to cost at least $2.6 billion, with the L-shaped line pegged at over $1 billion.

As for the progress that has been made on both Surrey light rail transit and the Broadway extension of the Millennium Line, Desmond said the Mayors’ Council was hopeful they would have a final commitment from the new provincial government in the fall, but he says the government has been dealing with more immediate priorities.

“Maybe we weren’t as realistic about the amount of time the new government would take to deal with the enormity of their agenda,” he said. “They just went through the difficult Site C decision. We continue to have very good discussions with the government, and we are very hopeful the first few months of 2018 will get to ‘Yes’.”

He adds that the BC NDP government still intends to cover 40% of the costs on top of the federal government’s stated commitment of 40%. This leaves TransLink and local governments to fill in the remaining 20%.

Several months ago, the Mayors’ Council requested that the provincial government use the carbon tax increase as a source of revenue to fund the projects.

“I think Vancouver can be an incredibly dynamic exploding region that is supported by long-range transit plans, that is why we need to get to ‘Yes’ now. We can’t take our time and rethink these things, we’ve got to get to ‘Yes’ now and keep going,” said Desmond.

Construction on both rail rapid transit projects is currently scheduled to begin in 2019 for a 2024 completion of the Surrey’s Newton-Guildford LRT line and a 2025 completion of the Broadway extension.

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