A proposed Surrey-Langley SkyTrain business case will be going to the Mayor’s Council on Regional Transportation on Jan. 30.
Project director Jeff Busby and vice-president of transportation planning and policy Geoff Cross gave a technical briefing on the business case to media Friday.
If the mayor’s council endorses the business case next Thursday, it will then be submitted to senior government. TransLink then expects final approval this summer, with construction beginning in roughly two years, some time in 2022.
That timeline, however, only applies to the first phase of the project, which will only be built out to 166th Street in Fleetwood.
The first phase would take about five-and-a-half years from the approval date, with the anticipated opening date in late 2025.
At the Jan. 30 meeting, the mayor’s council will also be asked to endorse a “Supportive Policies Agreement” that “commits the City of Surrey to policies and initiatives which will help ensure the project’s success” such as land-use planning, urban design, housing and transportation near the corridor.
It’s meant to “increase certainty” on the corridor growth to “maximize the investment performance of SkyTrain.”
Cross said the agreement is an “important aspect” for this particular project because of the change in priorities: the switch to SkyTrain to Langley, instead of LRT in Surrey.
“A number of the efforts that theCity of Surrey has already started along the corridor to ensure that the growth, which has long been predicted to be supportive of rapid transit, is now appropriate for the level of intensity of investment for a SkyTrain project. It’s TransLink staff’s opinion that it is,” Cross said.
”It’s similar or higher than what we’ve seen in recent expansions of the SkyTrain, whether it be into the Tri-cities or down along the Canada Line.”
Busby said the business case “really sets out the benefits of delivering” the Surrey-Langley SkyTrain extension.
By 2035, he said, 80,000 people will live within a short walk of the proposed stations. It would connect people to 380,000 jobs and 23,000 post-secondary education spaces, Busby said.
“This is twice the number of jobs and about 10 times the number of post-secondary educational opportunities that are available without the project.”
As for the environment, Busby said it will have a reduction of greenhouse gases by more than 17,000 tonnes through the diversion of people in vehicles and diesel bus service.
“People in Surrey actually drive 11 million kilometres per day in single-occupant vehicles,” he said. “This is 64 per cent more vehicle kilometres than residents drive in Vancouver, even though Surrey is three-quarters of the size. Because the trips in Surrey are very long and they don’t have the type of transportation alternatives, it means that it’s difficult to get around without a car.
“This project will help to address that deficiency.”
Busby said that while there aren’t highrises along the Fraser Highway corridor, it is a “very dense community.”
“There are almost 70,000 people that live in Fleetwood near the proposed four stations. That’s similar to the size of New Westminster… Already there are a lot of people in the Fleetwood community that would benefit from the project.”
Currently, there is about $1.63 billion in available funding which is enough to construct the extension from King George Station to 166th Street and Fraser Highway.
The full line, TransLink previously noted, would cost about $3.1 billion.
However, if TransLink is unable to secure that funding within the next year, that cost would go up.
“Costs go up with time, so as more time elapses, we’ll need to update our cost estimates,” Busby said.
With the Surrey-Langley SkyTrain project, TransLink will be using a “design build finance” model, which means TransLink will be responsible for project delivery, a contractor will complete the final design and construction, some construction costs will be financed privately with repayment “upon completion” and it will be operated and maintained by BC Rapid Transit Company.