The Surrey-Langley SkyTrain extension could be facing delays as the COVID-19 pandemic has delayed TransLink’s latest investment plan update set for July.
The extension was planned to move forward in TransLink’s phase two update for its investment plan, but the plan was “terminated” during the April 2 meeting due to the pandemic.
In a report to the TransLink Mayor’s Council on Regional Transportation on Thursday (May 28), vice-president of transportation planning and policy Geoff Cross said it was decided that “delivering a Phase Two Investment Plan update in July was no longer feasible due to uncertainties in projecting future revenues.”
Cross said the Surrey-Langley project “does get caught up” in the investment plan because any project more than $50 million “needs to be outlined in an investment plan.”
“Because we don’t believe we can do an investment plan because we can’t meet the litmus test of certainty for forecasting,” he said during the May 28 meeting. “It starts to point to a later approval date for this.”
TransLink, according to a different report on May 28 for the “Next Steps on 10-Year Investment Plan,” has had monthly revenue losses totally $75 million because of “stringent physical distancing measures” with resulted in travel demand declining “substantially.”
To offset the losses, staff outlined plans to reduce expenditures by about $25 million per month, with measures such as deferring some capital projects, deferring 2020 operations, maintenance and rehab funding for the Major Road Network, scaling down non-service operating expenditures and a 35-per-cent reduction in transit service hours, including a full suspension of service on 65 bus routes and frequency reductions on all services.
Because the pandemic is “adversely” impacting TransLink’s finances, “much work” will be required before it’s able to develop and approve the next investment plan.
“Once the longer-term economic and pubic health situation begins to stabilize and becomes more clear, the agency will need to reset its projected revenues and expenditures over the ten-year period, confirm available senior government funding, recapitalize its depleted reserves and re-prioritize its entire existing capital plan,” states the report on the SkyTrain extension.
For the project to move forward, Cross stated in his report that three issues “must be addressed”: whether or not the first phase of the Surrey-Langley project (which would only go to Fleetwood) could be done without using an Investment plan, which is required if a project is more than $50 million; whether the cost-share formula would be affected by COVID-19 relief packages from senior levels of government; and whether or not the region and the province “remain committed to approving this project and going to procurement in 2020.”
The report states that TransLink is “working with the province” on the first two issues, but there is a “low probability” of moving forward without an investment plan.
“While this is not yet definitive, it would appear that we are heading towards a fall investment plan,” Cross said. “Obviously the critical condition is understanding where the senior government relief piece would be as well as any stimulus funding which may also impact the scope of what we would want to advance this project by the fall.”
However, Cross said the business plan, which was approved in January, is still “very solid” and other work is “well underway.”
Meantime, Surrey will be paying TransLink $30 million in land and $9M in cash for work on the cancelled LRT, while also still going ahead with the transition to a municipal police force.