British Columbia

Metro Vancouver mayors agree to suspend Surrey LRT, start process for SkyTrain to Langley

Mayors across Metro Vancouver have voted to indefinitely suspend plans for light-rapid transit lines in Surrey and have asked TransLink to put forward a business case for a SkyTrain extension towards Langley.

TransLink says it would likely be built in two stages because SkyTrain costs a billion dollars more than LRT

A rendering of what Surrey LRT lines to Guildford and Newton could have looked like. The Mayors' Council has asked the project be suspended.

Mayors across Metro Vancouver have voted to indefinitely suspend plans for light-rapid transit lines in Surrey and have asked TransLink to put forward a business case for a SkyTrain extension to Langley.

The Mayors' Council approved a motion "recognizing the City of Surrey request to change the technology and timing of the Fraser Highway project from LRT to SkyTrain," paving the way for Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum's election promise to come to fruition. 

"We have a golden opportunity to move forward and start building in this region," said McCallum during a 14-minute speech to mayors about why they should reverse the long-planned decision to build light-rapid transit to Guildford and Newton first. 

"There wasn't public consulting done. This was all decided by the past council. That's why they were defeated. They didn't listen to the public. And I will also say TransLink did not listen to the public."

The change requires both the federal and provincial governments to agree to transfer dedicated funding from LRT to the SkyTrain extension, but that appears likely to happen.

"If he can convince his colleagues at the Mayors' Council to amend the plan, I'm happy to talk to them, but that will mean delays in the long term, and if that's what the mayors wishes are, then we'll have to go with that," said Premier John Horgan, an hour before the vote took place. 

Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart says he expects the same response from the federal government. 

"In speaking with the prime minister,  he indicated … Ottawa would be taking direction from us," said Stewart. 

TransLink staff will provide more information to mayors about business cases and possible timelines for consultation, design and procurement at its next meeting Dec. 13.  

The original plan for rapid transit in Surrey called for LRT to Guildford and Newton first, followed by a line to Langley in the future. (City of Surrey)

Two stages

While work will begin immediately on planning for a SkyTrain line to Langley, TransLink is cautioning that it will likely take time for the 17 kilometre  line to be fully completed.  

"Management advises that it's likely that SkyTrain from Surrey to Langley would have to be constructed in two phases," wrote TransLink in its report to mayors, saying there was approximately a billion dollar funding gap that has not been committed to by senior levels of government. 

It means the line could first end at Fleetwood or Cloverdale, but TransLink will be working on the business case for the entire line. 

In addition, Geoff Cross, the vice-president of policy and planning for TransLink, told mayors that the $1.58 billion committed to LRT would take time to be transferred and would require talks with the federal Treasury Board, among other groups. 

The first meeting of the Metro Vancouver Mayors' Council since municipal elections featured 16 new members. (Justin McElroy/CBC)

Coté new chair

The meeting began with the election of New Westminster Jonathan Coté as chair of the Mayors' Council and Langley Township Mayor Jack Froese as vice-chair. 

"I myself have gone through a bit of a process coming to terms with the change in direction," said Coté, explaining his vote in support of changing rapid transit in Surrey.

"[But] you do need to have strong partnerships with the host municipality." 

Coté, who was just one of five mayors re-elected in Metro Vancouver in October, was formerly the head of the funding-strategy committee. He replaces Derek Corrigan as chair of the organization, and both he and Froese will sit on the TransLink board.

Friday also brings another election of regional chairs, as the first Metro Vancouver board meeting takes place, where members will elect a chair to replace former Port Coquitlam mayor Greg Moore.