British Columbia

Not enough money to extend Surrey SkyTrain to Langley, TransLink says

TransLink CEO Kevin Desmond said a full-length Surrey-Langley SkyTrain would cost $3.12 billion but only $1.6 billion is currently available. 

Extension could go as far as Fleetwood, but not Langley as pushed for by McCallum

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)

A SkyTrain extension from Surrey to Langley will have to be conducted in two stages, due to a lack of available funds from TransLink.

TransLink CEO Kevin Desmond said Friday a full-length Surrey Langley SkyTrain would cost $3.12 billion but only $1.6 billion is currently available. 

"Currently there ... is enough for the project to reach Fleetwood," and "any work beyond this amount is unfunded and would require contributions from other sources."

Because of that, TransLink provided the Mayors' Council with additional options for a first stage: one that would stop at 166 Street in the Fleetwood neighbourhood (at a cost of $1.63 billion) and one that would stop at 184 Street in the Clayton Heights neighbourhood ($2.22 billion).

If a decision is made by the Mayors' Council at its meeting next week, public engagement could begin in the fall. Construction could begin in early 2022, with service beginning in 2025.

"I think this is a good project. I think the mayors' council will see this as a good project," said Desmond.

"Any further delay, if you extend out this timeline, the project becomes more expensive, and we're all aware of it. I think it's important everyone understands the stakes."

New stations for a line to Fleetwood would be at 140, 152 and 160th Street along the Fraser Highway, with a terminus at 166th Street. 

Complicated timeline

The federal and provincial governments had committed billions of dollars to several TransLink projects in 2018, following years of negotiations.

But in the 2018 municipal election, Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum campaigned on scrapping planned light-rapid transit routes to Guildford and Newton, diverting that money instead to fast tracking a SkyTrain extension to Langley.

The Mayors' Council approved the changes last November, but TransLink had to create a new business case and timeline for the route and ultimately concluded it could not be done in one stage under the current budget.

TransLink is in the first stages of figuring out how to get the required money from senior levels of government for the next stage of the Mayors' Council 10-year plan, which currently has a number of different priorities, including a SkyTrain extension to UBC.

"It was always understood … there's still a fair amount of the 10-year plan that is still not funded," said Desmond. 

"Sometime next year, the mayors will develop a scope [of funding options]. That next phase could include funding that would extend the line."

In addition, TransLink said the City of Surrey will be paying TransLink $39 million back for funds spent on consultation and planning for the now defunct LRT project. 

Surrey mayor Doug McCallum says he accepts TransLink's report, and looks forward to the first stage to Fleetwood being built. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

McCallum on board

Desmond said it was up to the TransLink Mayors' Council to decide what option to push for.

"They're the decision makers," he said. 

Langley City Mayor Val van den Broek was unavailable for comment, but the Greater Langley Chamber of Commerce called the news "disappointing, to say the least."

But McCallum, who in the past had been critical of TransLink's estimates, said he accepted the report  — though he believed the timelines and budgets were too conservative — and looked forward to a first stage being built. 

"We're happy it's going to at least go to the eastern border of Fleetwood. It's going to be built within five years, which is in our opinion fairly quick — not quick enough, but they're working hard to make it quicker," he said. 

In the meantime, McCallum said he would continue to lobby for budget savings and additional investments by senior levels of government, so the full extension to Langley could be completed sooner rather than later. 

"I think, for at this stage in the project, it's the approach that I certainly can accept," he said.