Surrey council has voted to enter into two LRT-related agreements with TransLink, as the first phase of the project moves toward procurement.
On Monday, city council gave its approval to sign a Supportive Policies Agreement (SPA) and a City Contribution Agreement (CCA) with the transit authority.
The CCA outlines how the city will contribute approximately $24.5 million dollars to the first phase of the project.
“Ours is quite a modest sum,” said Fraser Smith, Surrey’s general manager of engineering, noting phase one is estimated to cost $1.65 billion for the 10.5-kilometre Surrey-Newton-Guildford line, which will have 11 stops and take an estimated 27 minutes, from start to finish.
“This is our contribution towards helping that along,” he added.
One of the major contributions by the city includes the release of city-owned lands in the Newton Town Centre to allow for re-alignment of 137th Street. Another contribution entails the use of city-owned properties on 144th Street for the construction of a LRT power substation.
The city has also committed to the acquisition of lands along Central Avenue to facilitate the construction of the street between City Parkway and King George Boulevard.
“Another substantial contribution by the city was realized by the city’s discharge of a significant number of statutory rights-of-way along the SNG corridor, thereby providing the necessary authorizations to enable TransLink to acquire the dedications of roadway for the construction of the project,” a report to council notes.
The SPA, meantime, aims to “provide certainty of intent from the city and TransLink by committing both parties to work towards achieving land use and transportation objectives” and to “acknowledge SNG LRT as a catalyst to meet multiple objectives in regional and local plans, including transportation demand management and increasing affordable housing supply.”
“The city is interested in doing density along this corridor, and the city is interested in doing affordable housing as per policy. TransLink, of course, is interested in ridership,” noted Smith.
A city report notes the SPA looks at the “Six D’s” including destinations, density, diversity, distance, design and demand management.
With these two agreements approved on the city’s end, Smith told the Now-Leader the final and “most important” agreement is forthcoming.
“That’s the Master Municipal Agreement,” he explained. “That agreement will actually set down binding arrangements between TransLink and the City of Surrey about a lot of the intricacies of how the project will get built, and how it will be maintained and operated.”
Smith said that could include things like the city’s responsibilities to manage snow and ice as well as traffic signals, and TransLink’s responsibilities in maintaining stops.
Smith anticipated the project’s investment plan could be completed by the end of this month, at which point it would be the time to put out a Request for Qualifications.
“Out of that list, there will be a short listed group,” explained Smith, “and shortlisting that will take three to four months. Then TransLink will want to put out an RFP (Request for Proposals) to those three to four companies.
“So what we’re going to try to do is get the Master Municipal Agreement approved through TransLink and the Mayor’s Council, and our Surrey council and mayor, prior to the RFP (Request for Proposals) going out. That would likely be in the latter part of the fall.”
Meantime, opposition to the project continues.
As the City of Surrey and TransLink held public open houses about the planned light rail project in the city recently, opponents organized rallies near the events.
“We want to let people know that yes, there is a crowd of people that have spoken out in opposition of the LRT,” said Daryl Dela Cruz with the SkyTrain for Surrey group that’s organizing the protests.
Dela Cruz said about 25 people gathered for a rally June 5 at the intersection of 88th Avenue and King George Boulevard, near an open house set for 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at Surrey Arts Centre up the street.
SkyTrain for Surrey has been vocal in its ongoing opposition to the Surrey LRT project and the group’s change.org petition against the project has garnered more than 4,800 signatures so far.
Instead of LRT, SkyTrain for Surrey calls for the Expo Line to be extended to Langley on Fraser Highway, and a rapid bus system on King George and 104th Avenue.
They’ve also called for the Mayors’ Council on Regional Transportation to pull the project from its 10-Year Vision for the region.
The group says the more-than-$2-billion LRT project will be the “most expensive mistake in our region’s history.”
“Safety is part of our key concern,” said Dela Cruz. “It happens in other places with LRT systems. There’s a risk of collision when trains are crossing roadways. There’s also the potential this causes in delays in service in the event tracks are blocked or if there are break downs.
The project, said Dela Cruz, “betrays the expectation of Surrey residents.”
It’s anticipated that shovels will be in the ground for the first phase of Surrey LRT in 2019, and that it will be operational by 2024.