Trudeau and Horgan expected to confirm Surrey-Langley SkyTrain funding on Friday

Jul 9 2021, 4:09 am

Justin Trudeau will make a stop at Surrey City Hall on Friday morning for a “public transit announcement.”

According to the itinerary by the Prime Minister’s Office, released late today, Trudeau will be joined by federal Minister of Infrastructure Catherine McKenna, BC Premier John Horgan, BC Minister of Transportation Rob Fleming, BC Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy George Heyman, Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum, Langley City Mayor Val van den Broke, and TransLink Interim CEO Gigi Chen-Kuo.

All signs point to this being the long-anticipated project confirmation and funding announcement for the Surrey-Langley SkyTrain extension, but it will be against the backdrop of a much-speculated federal election this fall.

Over the past few weeks, the federal government has made major public transit investments in other regions, including about $12 billion in mid-May for five rail projects in Toronto and Hamilton, about $500-million on Tuesday to upgrade VIA Rail’s service on the Toronto-Quebec City corridor with higher frequencies and improved speeds, and $1.53 billion on Wednesday for Calgary’s Green Line LRT.

TransLink’s Mayors’ Council approved the business case for the Surrey-Langley SkyTrain project in January 2020, with the hope that both the federal and provincial governments would approve the business case and confirm project funding by the middle of 2020.

However, that was delayed, at least in part due to the pandemic.

Last September, TransLink initiated public consultation on the station designs for the first stage of the extension, but that was abruptly halted due to the provincial election call.

During the election campaign, Horgan’s BC NDP made a promise to expedite the extension, and build it in a single stage instead of two separate stages. This would be also accomplished by TransLink transferring the project’s jurisdiction to the BC Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure, which was a process completed last month.

The entire seamless extension of the existing Expo Line from King George Station in Surrey City Centre to 203 Street in Langley Centre will be elevated, with a total route length of 16 km and eight new stations.

The complete cost of the project is estimated to be about $3.1 billion, including the acquisition of additional train cars and the construction of a major train yard near the Langley end of the extension.

At least $1.6 billion will be funding previously allocated to the cancelled Surrey Newton-Guildford LRT project, which is sufficient to cover the first seven km with four stations from King George Station to 166 Street in Fleetwood.

Friday’s announcement is expected to confirm the approval of the business case, formalize the transfer of cancelled LRT funding, and announce new funding to fill the unfunded $1.5 billion gap for the remaining nine km with four stations from 166 Street to Langley Centre.

Under TransLink’s jurisdiction, there was an aim to start construction in early 2022 for an opening in late 2025, but this was based on a business case approval last year, and the start of the procurement process for a contractor in early 2021. At this point, a 2025 completion and opening is unlikely.

There is also the possibility the announcement could cover other direct federal and provincial funding requests made by the Mayors’ Council in 2020, totalling up to $2 billion, such as $450 million for TransLink’s Low Carbon Fleet Strategy of transitioning to electric-battery buses starting in 2023 — covering the cost of acquiring over 600 electric-battery buses, and building the associated charging and maintenance facilities.

Other requests to senior governments made by the Mayors’ Council last year include $965 million for refurbishment and upgrades to the transit fleet and systems, $550 million for SkyTrain station and bus loop upgrades, and $75 million for project planning and studies to support the Transport 2050 process of creating the region’s new 30-year transportation plan, such as detailed planning and business case work for UBC SkyTrain.

In February, the federal government also announced a permanent transit infrastructure fund of $3 billion annually that would begin in 2026, and shovel-ready, project-based funding between now and 2026.

Daily Hive Urbanized will have more coverage on this announcement on Friday.

Kenneth ChanKenneth Chan

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