TransLink's Mayors' Council to vote on UBC SkyTrain extension this week

Feb 12 2019, 2:12 pm

Major decisions on Metro Vancouver’s future public transit network are scheduled to be made this Friday by TransLink’s Mayors’ Council.

The board of 23 mayors and local leaders will convene to debate and vote on whether TransLink staff should plan the rail transit project to UBC as a seamless extension of SkyTrain infrastructure.

Last month, TransLink senior planners released a technical report that recommended a SkyTrain solution to the Mayors’ Council.

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Based on the independent technical findings, an extension of the Millennium Line to UBC from its future Arbutus Street terminus brings the highest ridership potential — 311,500 daily boardings by 2045, with 192,700 between VCC-Clark Station and Arbutus Street and 118,8000 between Arbutus Street and UBC.

All other street-level LRT alternative options bring far less ridership, and would reach ultimate capacity after just 15 years in 2045, whereas SkyTrain’s capacity is at least four times street-level LRT. SkyTrain is the only long-term capacity solution.

On Friday, the Mayors’ Council will be asked to approve SkyTrain technology and advance the project into design development and pre-business casework. In advance of this regional vote, Vancouver city council has already green lit SkyTrain as the City of Vancouver’s official preferred technology for the project.

There is $3 million in Phase Two funding to allow for this early-stage planning work to be conducted. By mid-2020, the project will require a further $30 million to $40 million to dive into the development of a business case.

A SkyTrain extension from Arbutus Street to UBC is currently unfunded, but regional leaders are aiming to take advantage of the upcoming federal election campaign when spending promises are made. The seven-km-long project is expected to cost between $2.8 billion and $3.2 billion in 2018 and could be completed by 2030 — five years after the extension reaches Arbutus Street.

Concurrently, TransLink is also conducting detailed planning for the 16-km-long Fraser Highway extension of SkyTrain’s Expo Line from King George Station to Langley Centre. The Mayors’ Council approved SkyTrain technology last December and work is quickly being performed to develop a preliminary and business case that will allow for the contractor bidding process to begin as early as mid-2020.

Afterwards, procurement will take another 15 months, and construction will take at least four years, potentially allowing for a significant portion of the Fraser Highway extension to be open by 2025.

The new direction with SkyTrain in Surrey and Langley and the possible advancement of the UBC SkyTrain extension could alter the timeline of the overall Mayors’ Council vision.

“Management recommends delivering the remainder of the Vision improvements in two parts, and on an accelerated basis. Early work on the next investment plan, including identifying near-term needs and funding options, would be accelerated to occur in parallel to the Surrey-Langley SkyTrain project development work,” reads a report by TransLink staff.

“These improvements would address immediate needs, for approval in an accelerated Investment Plan in mid-2020. This approach would give more time for the Mayors’ Council to confirm a sustainable long-term funding solution through the Regional Transportation Strategy process, which could be implemented to complete remaining Vision projects. This follow-up investment plan would be prepared for approval in 2023, with improvements starting as early as 2024.”

Other major projects in TransLink’s 2019 work plan include further study on the SFU Burnaby Mountain Gondola and providing the BC Ministry of Transportation with input on the George Massey Tunnel technical review.

TransLink is also updating its long-term Regional Transportation Strategy to identify future priority projects beyond the SkyTrain extensions to UBC and Langley.

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Kenneth ChanKenneth Chan

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