Fraser Highway at 160th Street. (Photo: Lauren Collins)

TransLink estimates the entire Surrey-Langley SkyTrain route would cost $3.12 billion

The proposed route could have eight stations

TransLink has released the proposed locations for SkyTrain stations, but the full 16-kilometre route would cost an estimated $3.12 billion — nearly double the funding TransLink currently has available.

TransLink hosted a technical briefing and update on the proposed Surrey-Langley SkyTrain project Friday (July 19) in New Westminster, as well as a “refresh” on the South of Fraser Rapid Transit Strategy.

The proposed 16-kilometre Surrey-Langley SkyTrain would extend from King George station and run along Fraser Highway through to 203rd Street in downtown Langley. A trip to Langley from Surrey would take around 22 minutes.

Along with the route, TransLink is proposing three major bus interfaces and some park and ride locations. TransLink would also build a new operations and maintenance facility that would likely be in Langley.

For the SkyTrain route to run all the way to Langley, it would cost an estimated $3.12 billion, which would include eight stations and 55 vehicles. Operating and maintenance costs are estimated at $32.4 million annually, with estimated fare revenue expected to be $21.3 million annually.

Ridership to Langley from King George station, according to TransLink, is expected to be 62,000 in 2035 and hit 71,000 by 2050.

Currently, TransLink has approximately $1.6 billion available in funding.

Jeff Busby, Surrey-Langley SkyTrain director, said since TransLink doesn’t have the $3.12 billion in funding, staff looked at building the project in stages.

The first scenario is building the SkyTrain to Fleetwood, probably with a terminus station near 166th Street.

For Fleetwood, it would cost an estimated $1.63 billion for seven kilometres, and TransLink would need 25 vehicles to operate the route.

Ridership is estimated to be 39,900 in 2035 and 44,200 by 2050 for running the route to Fleetwood. Operating and maintenance costs are estimated to be $17 million annually, and the estimated fare revenue by 2035 is $10.2 million annually.

“Even this shorter extension is a very effective project, less that 10 minutes from Fleetwood to Surrey centre and opens that part of Surrey to the rest of the transportation network,” said Busby, adding that if the project is approved within TransLink’s anticipated timeline, it could open to the public by the end of 2025.

Busby said staff was also asked to look at building an additional station which would run through to Clayton and cross the Serpentine valley, “which is actually one of the more technically challenging portions of the project.”

For Clayton, it would cost an estimated $2.22 billion for 11 kilometres, and TransLink would need 35 vehicles to operate the route.

Going to Clayton, TransLink estimates ridership would be 45,800 in 2035 and 51,500 by 2050. Operating and maintenance costs would be an estimated $20.4 million annually, and estimated fare revenue by 2035 would be $13.8 million annually.

TransLink has also given cost estimates for if the SkyTrain route would run to Fleetwood or Clayton.

During the meeting, TransLink released the proposed SkyTrain station locations, which would be located at: 140th Street, 152nd Street, 160th Street, 166th Street, 184th Street, 190th Street, 196th Street and 203rd Street.

Busby said the SkyTrain line would be “entirely” elevated. He said staff looked at cost-saving measures, such as running the route at-grade, but he said it posed “significant” environmental impacts.

“One of the advantages of the elevated SkyTrain is that it can keep the footprint of the rapid transit to a minimum, especially compared to transit alternatives that would be running at grade,” said Busby, highlighting the Green Timbers Urban Forest and the Serpentine valley which is in the agricultural land reserve and is subject to flooding due to its low elevation.

“What we found was that there were, for some of those at-grade options, significant environmental and urban disruption impacts that came at a cost. We didn’t see much promise there in terms of cost savings.”

READ ALSO: Green Timbers forest advocates raise concerns about proposed Surrey-Langley SkyTrain route, May 15, 2019

Busby said there in an environmental screening review that will “consider a range of potential impacts of the project on the natural and human environment.”

Dean Barbour, executive director of the Fleetwood BIA, said “the frustation, in our mind, is that it’s going to likely stop in Fleetwood somewhere. Is that the best use of $1.6 billion?”

Barbour said under this plan, Cloverdale and South Surrey won’t have true rapid transit for decades.

“We’ve been steadfast since day one – connect Guildford and Newton to Surrey Centre, and build out. Spider web it out.”

“I’m not against SkyTrain,” he added. “This has nothing to do with SkyTrain, it has everything to do with connecting Surrey’s town centres in the most affordable and efficient way. That was light rail. The phase three planning under the original plan that got destroyed, this is the money needed to connect South Surrey, Newton, Guildford, Cloverdale, Fleetwood, Clayton, and even Langley.”

Barbour said some believe a SkyTrain in Fleetwood would be a positive.

“It’s not,” he lamented. “Fleetwood will be known in the future as a SkyTrain station. We don’t have the natural assets here that make it a destination. The one asset we do have is the view of Mount Baker, which we’ll lose.”

Barbour also predicted more money to complete the proposed SkyTrain extension to Langley just isn’t in the cards.

“The province has promised a Pattullo Bridge, the province has promised an eight-lane tunnel, they’re looking at a gondola to SFU, Maple Ridge is getting expansion. Where are they going to find another billion dollars to build this out?”

The pot of money is only so big, he added.

During the technical briefing, TransLink CEO Kevin Desmond was asked that with a federal election looming if there is a concern that TransLink could lose the funding from the federal government.

“There is always that risk… After the election, we’ll have to see, but we’re all working under the assumption that is a very firm commitment,” Desmond said. “Now that being said, because we are changing technologies, and we have to put together a new business case, both the provincial government and federal government must review and approve the business case.”

However, Desmond said he is “very confident” the federal government “will recognize the very important needs of transportation here in our region.”

While the cost for a full extension to Langley increase to $3.12 billion from an estimated $2.9 billion in 2017 (that estimate was with the LRT technology), Daryl Dela Cruz said TransLink’s benefit-cost ratio (the overall value for money of a project) of 1.24-to-1 is a “step in the right direction for South-of-Fraser cities with growing transit needs.”

“We have long noted that street-running light rail lines proposed by previous City of Surrey governments would offer fewer travel time reductions and less capacity for future growth,” Dela Cruz said in a statement on his website SkyTrain for Surrey.

“With the switch in technology and advancement of a Fraser Highway project, the door remains open to pursue SkyTrain projects on King George Boulevard and 104 Avenue that would likely have superior returns-on-investment compared to an LRT.”

Meantime, at this coming Monday’s (July 22) Surrey city council meeting, council will be voting on whether or not to approve a memorandum of understanding with TransLink for the “advancement of the Surrey-Langley SkyTrain project,” which will “establish project objectives, scope and SNG-LRT (Surrey-Newton-Guildford LRT) reimbursement.”

The memorandum of understanding also outlines the city’s reimbursement of up to $39 million for “unnecessary SNG-LRT costs.”

According to a corporate report for July 22, TransLink and the city have calculated the actual costs incurred for the SNG-LRT project, and it has been separated into two categories: $39.8 million in project development expenditures, such as planning, design, business case and procurement; and $14.6 million for early works such as Bear Creek Bridge and 104 Avenue utility relocations.

Next week TransLink is expected to present a draft business case for the SkyTrain line at the July 25 mayors’ council meeting.

READ ALSO: Draft business case for Surrey-Langley SkyTrain to be ready July 25, April 25, 2019

A final draft business case is expected to be before the council in January 2020 with March 2020 being the “earliest anticipated date” for government approval, with a 15-month procurement window and four years’ construction.

TransLink kicked off its public engagement period April 4, with consultation ongoing until April 25.

READ ALSO: Public engagement kicks off for Surrey-Langley SkyTrain project, April 4, 2019

For more information, on the Surrey-Langley SkyTrain, visit surreylangleyskytrain.ca.

– With files from Amy Reid and Tom Zytaruk



lauren.collins@surreynowleader.com

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