Mayors move one step closer to approving Langley-Surrey SkyTrain line

Despite some debate and concerns, the mayors voted to approve the business case for the project

The approval of the business case for the Surrey-Langley SkyTrain expansion was met with smiles by Langley mayors on Thursday.

The TransLink Mayors’ Council gathered last week to vote on the preliminary business case for the SkyTrain expansion, a potential $3.12 billion project that would eventually bring SkyTrain all the way to downtown Langley City via Fraser Highway.

After a lengthy discussion, the Council voted to complete the business plan and submit it to senior levels of government by next January. There is currently enough funding – $1.6 billion – to allow the creation of a line and four new stations, reaching the Fleetwood neighbourhood.

More funding will be needed to get the line to Langley, where stations are planned for 196th Street near Willowbrook Shopping Centre, and 203rd Street in Langley City’s downtown core.

Some mayors worried the cost of the project will mean a loss of funding for projects in other areas of Metro Vancouver, something Mayor Jack Froese of Langley Township acknowledged.

“It’s very good news for Langley,” Froese said. “It’s good news for the region, too.”

He and Langley City Mayor Val van den Broek, as well as other local politicians and transit boosters, have been asking people to support the Cure Congestion campaign and its associated website.

With a federal election in October, the website and campaign is aimed at getting higher levels of government to turn over sustained funding of about $375 million annually for Metro Vancouver.

Then TransLink can plan “without waiting for the next handout, for the next election,” Froese said.

The decision is one of the last nails in the coffin of the alternate plan for light rapid transit, an at-ground rail system that was TransLink’s preferred option until the election of Mayor Doug McCallum in Surrey, who ran on a pro-SkyTrain platform. Langley politicians also preferred SkyTrain.

“They made the right choice,” van den Broek said of the Mayor’s Council.

She noted the overwhelming support for SkyTrain in surveys of local citizens.

“The residents spoke up, between Surrey and Langley,” van den Broek said.

Earlier in the meeting, Surrey Board of Trade CEO Anita Huberman made a late-hour pitch for light rapid transit in Surrey, appearing as a delegation.

“LRT is not a second-class transportation technology,” she said.

The Mayors’ Council also voted to refresh the south of Fraser rapid transit strategy to “consider combinations of alternatives within the $3.55 billion funding envelope and assess the consequences of providing less than 27 kilometres of rapid transit.”

The council rejected, however, a clause that “recommends preferred technologies for 104 Avenue and King George Boulevard, and assess the consequences of exceeding the $3.55 billion funding envelope, including impacts on a likely timeline to deliver those projects.”

“I think this project needs to go ahead as quick as possible,” Surrey’s McCallum told the council.

The 16.5-kilometre SkyTrain expansion into Langley is expected to handle 62,000 riders per day by 2035.

The mayors’ council also voted to limit funding available for the first phase of the project to the $1.63 billion already secured.

Meanwhile, former Langley Township mayor Rick Green and former B.C. Premier Bill Vander Zalm have been promoting a plan to re-open the old Interurban rail line which runs through Surrey and Langley, and as far east as Chilliwack.

TransLink staff have advised against the project, citing issues with cost and the fact that the rail lines do not go through enough areas of high population density.

– with files from the Surrey Now Leader

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