Vehicles travel Fraser Highway through a section of Green Timbers Urban Forest where the future SkyTrain line will be built. (Photo: Tom Zillich)

Vehicles travel Fraser Highway through a section of Green Timbers Urban Forest where the future SkyTrain line will be built. (Photo: Tom Zillich)

SkyTrain line through Surrey’s Green Timbers forest involves four-lane Fraser Highway

‘Optimized’ project plan OK with president of Green Timbers Heritage Society, but not others

Now that prep work for Surrey’s SkyTrain line extension has been given the green light, attention has turned to the road through Green Timbers Urban Forest where tracks will be built.

The city plans to four-lane Fraser Highway to “optimize” the rapid-transit project, in one of the city’s most congested road corridors.

Drawings of an elevated SkyTrain line are shown in a September 2020 report to city council.

“Staff have worked with TransLink to optimize the project design,” concluded Scott Neuman, Surrey’s general manager of engineering, “including the ability to complete SkyTrain plus four-lane widening using an approximate (27.5-metre) optimized cross-section through GTUF (Green Timbers Urban Forest) entirely within the road allowance, with no impact to GTUF and only an incremental increase in tree loss compared to TransLink’s original two-lane design.”

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Don Schuetze, president of Green Timbers Heritage Society, says there’s been talk of widening that stretch of Fraser Highway since the 1990s. “I’ve got a folder just filled with discussion about it – lots of ink spilled on it, and blood and sweat and tears,” Schuetze told the Now-Leader.

“My understanding is they’re going for a more minimal concept now, and that’s important,” he added.

“A few years ago they were talking about 45 metres across, for LRT. They’ve obviously done some thinking about how they did it with 100th Avenue, which they widened a couple years ago – and I think they did a good job. It was, ‘How narrow can we make this so that we impact the forested area the least amount?’ I think they’re following that same line of thinking with Fraser Highway.”

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Drawing of SkyTrain line and four-lane Fraser Highway from 144 Street to 148 Street with eastbound view, from a report to Surrey city council. (Image: surrey.ca)

Schuetze said “it’s not a great idea to encourage more traffic through a forested area like that, just like it’s not a good idea to encourage more in a school zone, for example. But if you’ve got to do it, then I think they’ve put some thought into it. They’re asking for opinions and are being as reasonably sensitive as they can, given the constraints they have.”

• RELATED STORY: Council approves $5.3 million contract for early work on Surrey SkyTrain expansion.

On Monday (July 12), Surrey council awarded a $5,384,600 contract to B&B Contracting Ltd. to widen Fraser Highway from 96th Avenue to 148th Street in preparation for construction of the Surrey-Langley SkyTrain expansion.

Surrey heritage advocate Jim Foulkes questions the need for four lanes on that highway section.

“The only congestion on Fraser Highway is caused by the light at 144th (Street). You go out there and look, that’s what causes the backup into Green Timbers, it’s not the two lanes through Green Timbers that’s backing things up.

“With SkyTrain,” he added, “it’s gone from rails on the ground to putting the monstrous noisy thing up in the sky. So why would you build a wider highway for cars when you have rapid transit? Make up your mind. Why do we need four lanes there? You know, in Vancouver on Cambie Street they put the whole damn SkyTrain underground, they tunneled it. Why don’t do they do that in Surrey? Why are we a second-rate cousin like that?”

Fraser Highway has become the busiest two-lane road in Surrey, with more than 28,000 cars per day, according to the city report.

The “optimized design” on the stretch through Green Timbers aims to reduce the road footprint and protect high-value trees along the north side of Fraser Highway, the report says.

The 22.5-metre, four-lane design “only slightly impacts additional Bylaw Trees, relative to TransLink’s base two-lane design, requiring tree removal to accommodate SkyTrain. All of these trees are within the existing road allowance, and there are no trees within GTUF being impacted by the optimized design. Furthermore, staff’s optimized design is a significant improvement from the original 40m wide, four-lane LRT design, as it prevents approximately 300-350 Bylaw Trees from being removed within the road allowance.”

• RELATED STORY, from 2019: Green Timbers forest advocates raise concerns about proposed Surrey-Langley SkyTrain route.

On July 9, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that the federal government will provide $1.3 billion in funding to build the SkyTrain extension from Surrey to Langley.

On July 13, a news release from Surrey city hall trumpeted the start of “early works” in preparation for Surrey-Langley SkyTrain, including the widening of Fraser Highway from 96 Avenue to 148 Street and the removal of the digital billboard sign from the Surrey Sport & Leisure Complex site in Fleetwood.

“The Fraser Highway Road widening will include improved cycling paths, two lanes of travel in each direction, and enhancements to existing culverts to improve fish and/or wildlife passage,” the news release said.

Road widening is set to begin in July, with instream works in August and September to align with the provincial and federal restrictions for instream works and bird nesting.

More project details are posted to surrey.ca/skytrain.

• READ MORE: SURREY NOW & THEN: Green Timbers’ inaugural plantation began ‘cultural shift’ in B.C.

Meantime,

temporary road closures are coming to Surrey’s Fraser Highway and area as crews prepare for the Surrey-Langley SkyTrain extension.

According to the City of Surrey’s website, Fraser Highway from 96th Avenue to 148th Street and 144th Street from 92nd Avenue to Fraser Highway will have temporary road closures “on a 24-hour per day basis,” starting at 9 a.m. Monday, July 19 and reopening 10 p.m. Friday, Oct. 1.

The website states it’s part of the Surrey-Langley SkyTrain extension’s early works program, and “B&B Contracting has been contracted by the City for the widening of Fraser Highway between 96 Avenue and 148 Street.”

The road closures are to “safely complete tree removals and installation of fish and wildlife culverts within the fisheries and bird nesting windows.”

READ ALSO: Temporary months-long road closure coming to Surrey’s Fraser Highway as part of SkyTrain construction, July 17, 2021

with files from Tom Zytaruk, Lauren Collins



tom.zillich@surreynowleader.com

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