Combined cost of Millennium Line, Surrey LRT megaprojects soars by $1.15 billion

The estimated combined budget for TransLink's two biggest proposed projects have gone up by over a billion dollars.

New $4.5B estimate due mostly to higher construction costs, lower Canadian dollar, says TransLink CEO

TransLink hopes to start construction in 2020 on a new LRT line in Surrey, B.C. (City of Surrey)

The estimated combined budget for TransLink's two biggest proposed projects have gone up by more than a billion dollars.

CEO Kevin Desmond announced Monday that the budget for the Millennium Line extension to Arbutus Street is now pegged at $2.8 billion (up from $2.3 billion in 2015) and light rail transit lines in Surrey to Newton and Guildford at $1.65 billion (up from $1 billion in 2015). 

That increase, which has been adjusted for inflation, is primarily due to two trends over the last three years, said Desmond: the higher cost of land acquisition and the lower value of the Canadian dollar. 

But he said with funding agreements in place with the federal provincial and municipal governments — which include a $5.50-a-year increase in property taxes per average household and an additional $300 to $600 fee per unit for new residential developments — TransLink shouldn't wait any longer. 

"This region needs to hurry and get on with building these projects," he said. 

"The demand and the interest in improving infrastructure in the region is very insatiable, and the longer we wait the more expensive these projects will become."

A map of the planned Millennium Line extension to Arbutus Street. (TransLink)

Desmond rejected the idea that TransLink should have provided further updates into the budget of the two projects since 2015, when they were released as part of the failed transit referendum

"Until we went through the really rigorous due diligence, if we gave you a number, the number would have changed the next day … we have a good degree of confidence in the numbers going forward."

Construction in 2020

Desmond made the announcement in conjunction with TransLink beginning public consultation on Phase Two of the Mayors' Council 10-year transit plan, which also includes upgrades to the current Expo and Millennium lines and an eight per cent increase in overall bus service. 

An online survey is available for the public to fill out, and a series of town halls will be held over the next two weeks. 

Desmond hopes that a final agreement is approved by board of directors on June 28, after which the organization will begin work hiring companies for the projects. 

TransLink hopes to begin construction in 2020, with the Millennium Line extension completed in 2025 and the Surrey LRT lines in 2024. 

A budget for a proposed third rail line in Surrey extending to Langley has not been determined, but will be explored over the next two years.  

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