A rendering of a light rail car along 104th Avenue in Surrey. (Photo: TransLink)

Surrey light rail ‘celebration’ event planned today

This, after the Surrey transit project was ‘officially’ launched by Trudeau and Horgan last week

A “celebration” event for Surrey’s light rail project is planned in the city today (Sept. 10).

The event is set to run from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Surrey Central Civic Atrium and Plaza (13450 104th Ave.).

Live music is planned, as are refreshments, a contest and giveaways, as well as an opportunity to talk to the Surrey-Newton-Guildford (SNG) light rail project team.

Two other community events are planned this month, including an open house at Guildford rec centre (15105 105th Ave.) on Wednesday, Sept. 19 from 5 to 7 p.m. where the project team will be on hand.

Then, on Saturday Sept. 22 from noon to 4 p.m., the project team will be at the Fall Family Fun Day at Newton rec centre, located at 13730 72nd Ave.

See also: Trudeau ‘officially launches’ SNG light rail transit line in Surrey

See also: Bidding open for Surrey light rail construction

Last week, the SNG project took another step forward when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Premier John Horgan “officially launched” the $1.65 billion project.

The bidding for contractors also opened last week, kicking off the procurement phase of the 10.5-kilometre Surrey-Newton-Guildford light rail line.

TransLink says construction is slated to begin in 2020, and the line should be operational by 2024.

“By 2041, we expect more than 400,000 people to move to communities south of the Fraser,” said Stephan Mehr, project director for the SNG line.

“LRT will transform Surrey. It will encourage more livable neighbourhoods and support growing job centres. Three-quarters of transit trips start in Surrey and end in Surrey. This shows people living there want to be able to work and play close to home. LRT will make that type of lifestyle easier to attain in Surrey, while preparing the city for decades of growth.”

Mehr told reporters last week that the 96 B-Line that the LRT will replace is the fastest growing bus route in Surrey and sees as estimated five million boardings per year and that “we’re going to run out of capacity very quickly and that’s why we need to get LRT running.”

At peak times, Mehr said Surrey’s SNG light rail line is estimated to see 2,000 passengers per hour in either direction, with five-minute frequency.

“This will definitely increase capacity. We will more than double the capacity of the B-Line that it’s going to replace and we have the ability over time to even increase that.”

Mehr said TransLink estimates that when the line opens in 2024, it will see 46,000 passengers per day, rising to an estimated 77,000 passengers per day by 2045.

Read also: City of Surrey envisions 150 kilometres of light rail transit

Some political candidates for the Oct. 20 civic election, such as former mayor Doug McCallum, have said that if elected they will transfer the provincial and federal dollars to SkyTrain instead of LRT.

But as far as TransLink CEO Kevin Desmond is concerned, the “train has left the station” on that and he said he doesn’t think incoming politicians will be able to change the technology on Surrey’s SNG line this late in the game.

“I think it’s pretty locked in,” said Desmond. “This is what the Mayors’ Council has signed off on, the federal and provincial government are now ready, willing and able and fully committed.”

Meanwhile, LRT opponents from the broader community are not going away.

The SkyTrain for Surrey group said in a release Wednesday that is is “disappointed by decision-makers at all levels of government, who have announced their intent to continue” despite objections from many locals.

See also: SkyTrain for Surrey wants LRT pulled from Mayors’ Council plan

See also: All eyes on Newton as Surrey LRT plan rolls forward

The group, headed by Daryl Dela Cruz, stands firm in its crusade to have the project halted, saying SkyTrain in a superior technology and that it won’t increase transit use in Surrey, that it will be slow and that it will cost more, per kilometre, than the SkyTrain Evergreen Line.

At Surrey City Hall for the technical briefing on Wednesday, TransLink’s vice-president of infrastructure management and engineering Sany Zein was asked why the prices for the Surrey LRT line was $157 million a kilometre, when the Evergreen Line completed two years ago was done for $130 million a kilometre.

Zein cited inflation.

“Every project gets its own updated and refreshed cost estimates,” said Zein.

“We’ve been facing inflation pressures on all major infrastructure projects,” he added, noting “significant pressure” when it comes to property costs, some of which have almost doubled since the Evergreen Line was constructed.

Labour pressures have played into the cost estimates as well.

“The numbers reflect the very latest information we have,” Zein said,” which also “assume inflation in the coming years we are delivering this project.”

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