(File photo)

Langley councillor fears funding will limit SkyTrain expansion to Fleetwood

On Nov. 5, Surrey’s new city council voted unanimously to ‘cancel’ the light rail project and instead, extend SkyTrain to Langley

Will Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum’s envisioned SkyTrain extension make it all the way down Fraser Highway to Langley?

Langley City Councillor Nathan Pachal said he worries it won’t.

Pachal said he doesn’t think there is enough funding on the table to pay for an extension of Surrey’s SkyTrain line all the way from Whalley to Langley.

Pachal expects that “the first phase of the SkyTrain extension would likely terminate in Fleetwood,” referring to 2017 TransLink estimates that the line down Fraser Highway to Langley would cost roughly $2.9 billion, far more than the $1.65 billion that has been committed to the former Surrey council’s plan to build light rail in the city.

“My major concern would be that there would be no regional consensus for funding SkyTrain from Fleetwood to Langley, and we would not see rail rapid transit until after an indeterminate length of time,” said Pachal.

See also: Surrey council unanimously passes motion to ‘cancel ’ LRT

But McCallum insists the SkyTrain line can be done with the money that’s been committed, partly because he intends for part of the system to be built “at grade,” or at ground level, which would “significantly” reduce the price tag.

And, because of the total cost of the Evergreen Line.

“The Evergreen Line came in a year-and-a-half ago at $1.4 billion,” said McCallum. “So we think that even if you add inflation, and maybe the cost of some of the materials to be a little bit more, that we can still build it along Fraser Highway at $1.65 billion.”

Pachal said he looks forward to seeing McCallum’s “detailed design and costing documents.”

McCallum and his Safe Surrey Coalition passed a motion to “cancel” the planned light rail system in the city immediately after being sworn in on Nov. 5. The motion directs city staff to “stop all work” on the LRT project and immediately start working with TransLink on a SkyTrain extension down Fraser Highway to Langley.

It also requests that the Mayors’ Council and TransLink follow suit and “immediately initiate a new SkyTrain extension,” as well as transfer the approved funding to the project “as soon as possible.”

In light of the resolution, TransLink CEO Kevin Desmond said in a statement it is “pausing work on the Surrey-Newton-Guildford LRT Project and suspending the RFQ process while we await direction from the Mayors’ Council and the TransLink Board.”

TransLink, added Desmond, is “committed to improving rapid transit in Surrey and Langley and we look forward to working with the Mayors’ Council, the City of Surrey, and the City and Township of Langley to advance the best options for the people south of the Fraser and the entire region as quickly as possible.”

Next, McCallum will have to get his vision passed at the Mayors’ Council on Regional Transportation. The first meeting of the region’s newly elected mayors is set for Nov. 15 in New Westminster.

McCallum says that he will continue to speak with mayors around the region to drum up support.

Last week, New Westminster Mayor Jonathan Cote has suggested Surrey should pay back the $50 million TransLink says it has spent on planning light rail in the city, but McCallum said that won’t be happening.

“We have no intention of paying that,” McCallum told the Now-Leader. “It’s TransLink’s problem, and it’s their mistake because they didn’t do any public consulting.”



amy.reid@surreynowleader.com

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