The project team responsible for planning the Surrey Newton-Guildford (SNG) light rail transit project (LRT) is without its leader.
Stephan Mehr, TransLink’s Project Director for the SNG LRT, left his position several weeks ago due to “personal and family reasons and will be returning to Europe,” according to a spokesperson with TransLink.
On Monday, a decision was made by TransLink CEO Kevin Desmond to put the project on “pause,” in response to the new Surrey City Council’s unanimous vote to reject SNG LRT in favour of the SkyTrain extension on the Fraser Highway. This move includes the suspension of the Request For Qualifications bidding process for a private contractor to design, build, and operate the $1.65-billion, 11-km-long train system.
Mehr’s departure is possibly a significant indicator of the unlikelihood of SNG LRT being resurrected, even though it is currently technically still TransLink’s official rapid transit project for the South of Fraser.
The City of Surrey, under its new leadership, considers the project cancelled, which is also evident by the complete deletion of the entire LRT project section from the municipal government’s website on Tuesday morning. At this time, TransLink’s website’s project pages and the project team’s website are still intact.
TransLink’s Mayors’ Council is expected to discuss the future of SNG LRT and the City of Surrey’s wishes to build the Fraser Highway SkyTrain during the inaugural Mayors’ Council meeting on Thursday, November 15. Any new direction on rapid transit in the South of Fraser would have to be approved by the Mayors’ Council.
Prior to joining TransLink’s SNG LRT team in early-2017, Mehr held various major rail transportation planning positions. He worked with CH2M on the Millennium Line’s Evergreen Extension between early-2016 and early-2017 and was the Director of Business Planning for Metrolinx’s Union-Pearson Express train system in Toronto between 2012 and 2016.
The seasoned engineer and infrastructure planner spent over two decades with Quebec-based SNC-Lavalin, taking on various roles including the Director of Transportation Planning. During his time with SNC-Lavalin, he was involved with the planning and implementation of the Canada Line.
In an op-ed written by Mehr and published by Daily Hive in September, he described SNG LRT as “an historic opportunity.”
“We worked with the City to carefully study population and employment growth, detail Surrey’s transportation needs and establish its livability goals,” wrote Mehr. “Years of work and discussion have gone into the decision that a light rail system would be the best solution for Surrey to reduce congestion, meet growing transit demand, and support the development we all want: complete, connected and livable neighbourhoods.”
“People look for convenient public transit options when deciding where to live, work, and spend time. Light rail transit in Surrey will stimulate economic development, job growth, and density.”
- Op-Ed: The Surrey LRT is a historic opportunity
- TransLink CEO seeking Mayors' Council's final decision on Surrey SkyTrain
- Surrey City Council approves plan to cancel LRT, move ahead with SkyTrain
- TransLink CEO announces suspension of all Surrey LRT work
- Vancouver’s new mayor says he'll help push for new SkyTrain in Surrey
- Some Metro Vancouver mayors are ambivalent on cancelling Surrey LRT for SkyTrain
- Broadway Subway cost estimated at $2.83 bilion, Surrey LRT now at $1.65 billion
- SkyTrain along Fraser Highway to Langley will cost $2.9 billion, says TransLink
Editor’s note: This article has been updated with new information on when Stephan Mehr left his position.