British Columbia

Mayors approve moving forward on Surrey SkyTrain extension — but only as far as Fleetwood

If all goes according to plan, the first phase of the line would be completed in 2025.

But they make clear there's no additional funding available for extension to Langley at this time

TransLink says there is only enough money to begin construction for a SkyTrain extension along to Langley until 166th Street in the Fleetwood neighbourhood. (Justin McElroy/CBC)

Metro Vancouver mayors have voted in favour of moving forward with a SkyTrain extension in Surrey, B.C., while limiting funds available so that it can only extend to the neighbourhood of Fleetwood under the current budget. 

By a majority vote, mayors asked TransLink to:

  • Complete the project business case by January 2020.
  • Complete a refresh of its south of Fraser rapid transit strategy.
  • Limit funding available for the first phase of project to the $1.63 billion already secured

A motion to consider expanding the long-term budget available for transit projects south of the Fraser was defeated.

The vote means TransLink will begin in earnest on a plan for the full line (16 kilometres and eight stations to Langley City) with the expectation it will only start construction on seven kilometres and four stations to 166 Street in Fleetwood, unless they get further funding from the provincial and federal governments.   

Currently, TransLink has $1.65 billion budgeted for rapid transit south of the Fraser, with funding 100 per cent approved from higher levels of government. 

If all goes according to plan, the first phase of the line would be completed in 2025.

TransLink provided three options to mayors for the SkyTrain extension, but currently only have $1.65 billion in available funds for any projects. (TransLink)

Mixed reaction from mayors

Several mayors expressed some misgivings over the plan, a reversal of the mayors' original concept of priorizing light-rapid transit to Newton and Guildford. 

But many said they would support the change because it was the wish of mayors in the affected region, particularly Surrey's Doug McCallum, who campaigned on the issue in his winning campaign last October.  

"I've struggled with this change of direction … but to me, given some of the change in direction and leadership south of the Fraser, and it was an open and discussed topic in the election, we need to be open," said Mayors' Council chair Jonathan Cote. 

Township of Langley Mayor Jack Froese said he was grateful for the support from other mayors. 

"It's no surprise to me that $1.63 billion isn't going to take it all the way to Langley. I sort of guessed that at the beginning," Froese said.

"More delays does nothing but increase the cost. Going to Fleetwood is another piece of the puzzle. And if we stop putting the puzzle together, we get nothing ... and I hope the mayors support this, because it doesn't just affect Surrey and Langley, it affects people throughout the region." 

The TransLink Mayors' Council, which oversees regional transportation, receives details of the plan on July 25, 2019. (Justin McElroy/CBC)

Regional priorities

The mayors' council attention will now turn to lobbying senior levels of government for funding so it can complete its 10-year transit plan, which would include extending SkyTrain to Langley — leaving only $400 million for transit improvements south of the Fraser. 

While all mayors were enthusiastic about further building out Metro Vancouver's transit system, several expressed worry that the line to Langley could take longer than expected to be finished.  

"I worry that we have ... built half the soccer field," said Coquitlam Mayor Richard Stewart. 

"We didn't have all the money to build the whole soccer field … we're going to get halfway to Langley, if we do that, does the second half of the project make sense?"

District of North Vancouver's Mike Little was one of four mayors (along with the leaders of Lions Bay, Anmore and Belcarra) to oppose the entire motion. He said extending SkyTrain line to Fleetwood at the expense of any other local improvements would only encourage sprawl at the expense of other regions with serious congestion problems.  

"Our community is largely stuck in their cars, stuck in bridges, because we don't have the rapid [transit] infrastructure," he said.

"This doesn't seem to be supporting the regional growth strategy. It seems to be supporting getting people into the downtown peninsula." 

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