Flanked by local candidates at Langley City’s Douglas Park, NDP leader John Horgan pledged $1.5 billion to complete the SkyTrain extension on Thursday morning.
“SkyTrain to Langley is long overdue,” Horgan said.
“A re-elected NDP government will complete the Surrey to Langley SkyTrain route, right here to Langley,” said Horgan.
“We want to make this a provincial project, so it takes pressure off municipalities, it takes pressure off TransLink, we’re going to fund it,” Horgan said.
This does not mean that the province will be funding the entire project, which was being headed by the TransLink Mayors’ Council and needs funding from both the province and the federal government.
“The municipalities will have to find their share,” Horgan said. “I’ll work with the federal government as I’ve been doing for the past number of years, to make sure that we get our fair share of the dollars we send to Ottawa.”
”The BC Liberals had 16 years to do it, and did not,” Horgan said of the difference between the NDP and his primary opponents in the election.
Horgan also mentioned a host of other infrastructure projects, including the widening of Highway 1 as far east as Abbotsford, which the NDP platform, released earlier this week, mis-identified as Fraser Highway for a few hours before it was hastily revised.
The total cost of the Surrey-Langley SkyTrain is estimated at about $3.1 billion, with the $1.6 billion phase to Surrey’s Fleetwood neighbourhood already funded.
The switch from a plan for light rail to a full SkyTrain line increased costs, and means an additional $1.5 billion is needed to complete the last portion of the line.
READ MORE: Surrey-Langley SkyTrain business case
Horgan was introduced by Langley riding NDP candidate Andrew Mercier, who criticized BC Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson’s proposed economic policies.
“Andrew Wilkinson is proposing another tax cut, where the biggest benefits go to those at the top,” Mercier said, contrasting it to the NDP’s pledge to create jobs.
Mercier’s opponent, Liberal candidate Mary Polak, was not opposed to the SkyTrain project moving forward, but suggested her party would do a better job of seeing it to completion.
“We absolutely support it,” Polak said of SkyTrain to Langley.
“We need SkyTrain out to Langley, sooner rather than later.”
She said the NDP’s record on infrastructure projects is promising more and delivering less, whereas the Liberals have a track record of completing large-scale projects.
Local mayors were supportive of the NDP’s announcement.
“There is a solid business case for the Surrey-Langley SkyTrain project to be completed all at once as it keeps costs down, generates proven economic growth, and moves people to look for alternative transportation options,” said City Mayor Val van den Broek. “This provincial project will be a game-changer for the residents who live south of the Fraser.”
“It’s certainly a good announcement and it helps a lot in delivering the project quicker,” said Mayor Jack Froese of Langley Township.
He noted there were a few details, including about timing, that were not part of Horgan’s announcement.
Froese said the promise of provincial funding is reassuring, as TransLink has been hit hard by loss of revenue due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum also released a statment shortly after the announcement.
“The BC NDP’s promise to build this line all the way to Langley makes good sense,” McCallum said. “This project is shovel ready, will create well-paying jobs immediately, and will take more cars off the road with the built-in ridership from the growing cities of Surrey and Langley.”
SkyTrain for Surrey, a lobby group for the line, called on the BC Liberals and Greens to match the NDP’s pledge to fully fund the line.
“The most important aspect of today’s announcement is the funding commitment to ensure the full SkyTrain project –spanning 16 kilometres from King George Station to Langley City – is completed in a single phase instead of two, and does not hinge on TransLink’s ability to deliver a regional funding share,” the group said in a statement.
During the announcement, Horgan said the NDP’s promised policies will create 18,000 jobs a year for transit, roads, and other projects as part of the $9 billion in overall infrastructure funding.