TransLink CEO says SkyTrain from Arbutus to UBC will have to wait

Oct 8 2019, 5:00 pm

There have been calls for TransLink and senior governments to construct the full Millennium Line Broadway Extension to UBC in one go, but the head of the public transit authority says it is just not possible.

TransLink CEO Kevin Desmond poured cold water today on the idea of seamlessly building the subway project all the way to campus in one phase instead of two separate phases.

Early this year, UBC launched a campaign advocating for SkyTrain reaching campus, with a proposed timeline of construction starting in the early 2020s for an opening in 2028, if funding commitments by all levels of government are secured by 2021.

While Desmond said this would be an ideal scenario, it is just not possible with funding unsecured, other regional priorities, and the depth of planning and design work that has yet to be conducted.

“UBC will have to be a separate project,” he said during a seminar with the Urban Development Institute, noting that the “best case scenario” is the Mayors’ Council will fund the forthcoming engineering and procurement readiness work next year that is expected to cost tens of millions of dollars.

“In the future, it is inevitable [that it will be built], but it is a matter of when,” he added. “It is years away, it is on the radar screen of the mayors, but we still have work to do.”

Both the Mayors’ Council and Vancouver City Council have approved SkyTrain as the selected technology for the remaining journey to the westernmost tip of the Vancouver peninsula.

In February, the Mayors’ Council approved $3 million for early preliminary study work on the SkyTrain segment between Arbutus Street and UBC, including the potential routing and station locations, as well as identifying elevated, at-grade, and underground alignments, with considerations to the Jericho Lands development and the urban growth of UBC.

TransLink staff previously noted the next stage of detailed study work will cost between $30 million and $40 million.

Early construction cost estimates peg the remaining seven-km-long route to UBC at between $2.8 billion and $3.2 billion in 2018 dollars.

Construction on the project’s first phase — the $2.8-billion, 5.7-km-long segment from VCC-Clark Station to Arbutus Street — will begin late next year for an opening in late 2025. When open, the 99 B-Line will have a truncated route running from a new bus exchange at Arbutus Station to campus.

When poised with the question over whether there could be “busmageddon” at the 99 B-Line’s bus exchange, Desmond flatly rejected the possibility.

“We’re going to have to do a damn good job of making sure we have good bus service,” he said. “We are going to do everything in our power to make sure it’s as good and seamless of a connection at Arbutus as possible.”