Metro Vancouver mayors cancel Surrey LRT in favour of SkyTrain

Surrey mayor claims he can extend Skytrain for the $1.65 billion already committed to light rail

Light rail in Surrey is officially dead on arrival, after a vote by Metro Vancouver mayors in favour of SkyTrain at their first post-election gathering.

The vote was made at a packed four-hour meeting of the Mayors’ Council on Regional Transportation on Thursday in New Westminster.

Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum, whose Safe Surrey coalition won the Oct. 20 municipal election on a promise to cancel light rail in favour of SkyTrain, had made a lengthy appeal for the change.

“We did extensive consulting… I did not see on single person who was for light rail,” said McCallum. “It was all, all for SkyTrain.

“Our goal was to support the 10-year plan, but change the technology from light rail to SkyTrain. We also wanted to switch the money that was allocated for light rail… to SkyTrain and that was passed today.”

The mayors’ council had allocated $1.65 billion for the Surrey-Newton-Guildford section of light rail, which would have spanned 10.5 kilometres and had a completion date of 2024.

The provincial and federal governments have each committed 40 per cent of the capital costs as for the $7.3-billion second phase of the mayors’10-year transportation plan, with the region paying the remaining 20 per cent.

Richmond Mayor Malcolm Brodie fiercely opposed the decision to “throw away” years of work and millions of dollars already spent on exploring light rail.

“Surely we’re going to have to have the same analysis to change this decision to SkyTrain as we had to make it LRT,” Brodie said.

“The fact is we don’t have enough money in this phase. How are we going to do it? We need to know about the additional cost for the new approach.”

But Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart said mayors should be guided by the past council’s decision, not bound by it.

“The people of Surrey, though a democratic process, have come forward and said, ‘We want this change,’” Stewart said.

The question remains on cost

TransLink CEO Kevin Desmond has said senior government would agree to fund SkyTrain instead of light rail, but he was clear on Thursday that consultation, an investment plan and a business case still all had to be completed before money could change projects.

The council voted for TransLink to begin plans for a SkyTrain line connecting Surrey to Langley along Fraser Highway – something McCallum believed could be done for the $1.65 million allocated to Surrey-Newton-Guildford light rail.

A light rail line along Fraser Highway was estimated at $1.95 billion, although only $30 million has been committed for pre-design work on the line.

TransLink’s latest estimate for SkyTrain along Fraser Highway, however, was $2.92 billion.

Desmond said he wasn’t sure how McCallum planned to save $965 million, saying TransLink has done the math “using widely accepted factors and methodology.”

“That said, if Surrey and [the Langleys] want us to look at an alternative construction method in order to save money, we will.”

McCallum said he was confident all 27 kilometres of rail could be built as SkyTrain, for no more than the $3.5 billion estimated for light rail in the region, with one way to do it being building it at ground level, along agricultural land by Fraser Highway.

Next steps for TransLink

The lack of details on cost estimates, design and timeline available on Thursday left some mayors concerned.

“This approach is setting a very, very dangerous precedent,” Brodie said. “It seems to me that there are a lot of aspects that we need to review,” including what would happen to the Surrey-Newton-Guildford line with money reallocated to a Fraser Highway SkyTrain.

Newly-elected council chair Jonathan Cote said Surrey rail might be in flux, but all other projects in phase two are moving ahead as scheduled.

TransLink staff will bring a “work plan” to the next mayors’ council meeting on Dec. 13, though Desmond acknowledged it was unlikely to contain any cost estimates.

He said the plan would allow mayors to make decisions on the business case and development work for a Fraser Highway SkyTrain, as well as rejigging the South of the Fraser Rapid Transit plan adopted in 2012.

READ MORE: Metro Vancouver mayors face tough decision on SkyTrain versus light rail

READ MORE: Surrey council unanimously passes motion to ‘cancel ’ LRT

READ MORE: New federal deal unlocks $2.2B in TransLink cash


@katslepian

katya.slepian@bpdigital.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Surrey shares in ‘Sonic the Hedgehog’ movie success

Jim Carrey among actors in scenes filmed at Joe Brown Park in 2018

Cloverdale resident wants speeders bumped from his road

Lord Tweedsmuir teacher Walter van Halst says safety is number one concern

Surrey mom to plead guilty in U.S. college admissions scheme

According to charging documents, Xiaoning Sui paid $400,000 to a sham charity to have her son admitted at UCLA

Surrey councillor claims Fleetwood residents caught ‘off guard’ by corporate report

Council approved area plan boundary for Fleetwood that left many “scrambling” to understand, Pettigrew says

Elderly White Rock assault victim upgraded to stable condition

Incident occurred Feb. 19 in the city’s Five Corners district

VIDEO: B.C. senior recalls ‘crazy’ wartime decision to grab bear cub from den

Henry Martens – now 96 – says he was lucky to be alive after youthful decision to enter a bear’s den

Chilliwack physiotherapist charged with sexual assault

Mounties urging other potential victims to make contact

Trudeau: Time for blockades to end and Indigenous leaders to work with government

Prime minister says situation in Coastal GasLink pipeline dispute is ‘unacceptable and untenable’

RCMP clarifies stance on removing officers from Wet’suwet’en territory in northern B.C.

Police say will remove officers only if hereditary chiefs keep road open to pipeline workers

Youth-led report calls on B.C. government to create plan to end youth homelessness

There are no dedicated programs for youth homelessness at federal, provincial level, report says

Abbotsford mosque gets online hate for exhibit on Jesus

Event meant to bring community together gets attacked teaching religous differences

Petition slams Victoria councillor who chastised police after Wetsuweten protest

Ben Isitt calls effort to get him suspended is not a ‘reliable barometer of public opinion’

B.C., Ottawa sign sweeping 30-year deal for northern caribou habitat

West Moberly, Saulteau co-manage new protection on two million acres

PHOTOS: 2020 BC Winter Games kick off in Fort St. John

More than 1,000 of B.C.’s best athletes will be competing over the next three days

Most Read