(Black Press file photo)

Second round of public engagement for Surrey-Langley SkyTrain extension kicks off

TransLink to hold five open houses; online survey open until Nov. 17

TransLink has kicked off a second round of public consultation as it continues to plan for a Surrey SkyTrain extension.

The transit authority is planning five open houses and has launched an online survey that will be live through to Nov. 17. Feedback will help to inform the project design, according to TransLink.

In addition to input on the SkyTrain project, TransLink is also seeking feedback on rapid transit plans along 104th Avenue and King George Boulevard.

This stage of engagement provides the public with new details about the project, including the location of the proposed SkyTrain “guideway” along Fraser Highway – where it is north, south, or centre-running.

“The project team has developed some principles to help us make decisions about where we recommend the guideway to go, seeking to minimize impacts on the environment, to minimizing impacts on businesses and properties, keep the costs low, as well as minimize impacts on traffic,” said Jeff Busby, director of the Surrey-Langley SkyTrain extension.

In this phase of engagement TransLink is seeking feedback on access to the SkyTrain and its integration with other modes of transportation, such as walking, cycling, and driving; topics of review in the Environmental Screening Review.

Busby said TransLink has taken into consideration Green Timbers Urban Forest, the Agricultural Land Reserve and the historic core of Langley.

For Green Timbers, Busby said TransLink is working with environmental stakeholders to design the guideway alignment “to keep the impacts to the forest to the absolute minimum.”

In the ALR, the guideway alignment would follow Fraser Highway to prevent any impacts to the ALR, Busby said.

Working with the Township of Langley, Busby said TransLink is working to design the SkyTrain as it comes into the historic core.

“This is a built up area with a lot of historic buildings that we wanted to ensure the SkyTrain is well integrated with, as well as support a lot of growth that is projected for this area.”

Geoff Cross, vice-president of transportation planning and policy, said with the switch to SkyTrain from light rail, staff had to go back and look at what could be done along King George Boulevard and 104th Avenue.

Launching in January of 2020, Cross said, is the King George Boulevard RapidBus, which will have a frequency of seven-and-a-half minutes during peak times. It’s estimated to make between 22,000 and 24,000 trips per weekday.

“It will feel a little bit more like rapid transit and better connections,” Cross said.

The rapid bus program, he said, is “is designed so over time we can add more and more priority elements to it, whether it be more bus lanes or signal priorities that allows the bus to go through more quickly so we can move more and more people, all the way up to, probably, three-minute frequency on the buses, which is incredibly frequent.”

The open houses are planned on the following dates:

  • Nov. 7 – Langley City Hall, 20399 Douglas Crescent, from 3-8 p.m.
  • Nov. 12 – Hope Community Church, 18625 Fraser Hwy., Surrey, from 3-8 p.m.
  • Nov. 13 – Surrey Sport and Leisure Complex at 16555 Fraser Hwy. from 3-8 p.m.
  • Nov. 14 – Kwantlen Polytechnic University, 12666 72nd Ave., Surrey from 1-6 p.m.
  • Nov.16 – Central City Shopping Centre, 10153 King George Blvd., Surrey from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The survey is available online at surreylangleyskytrain.ca/community.

SEE MORE: TransLink estimates the entire Surrey-Langley SkyTrain route would cost $3.12 billion

READ ALSO: Green Timbers forest advocates raise concerns about proposed Surrey-Langley SkyTrain route

On July 25, the region’s mayors voted to create a business case for the Surrey SkyTrain expansion.

TransLink released proposed locations for SkyTrain stations in mid-July, but it was revealed at that time that the full 16-kilometre route would cost an estimated $3.12 billion — nearly double the funding TransLink currently has available.

Currently, TransLink has approximately $1.6 billion available in funding.

The proposed 16-kilometre Surrey-Langley SkyTrain would extend from King George station and run along Fraser Highway through to 203rd Street in downtown Langley. A trip to Langley from Surrey would take around 22 minutes.

During the meeting, TransLink released the proposed SkyTrain station locations, which would be located at: 140th Street, 152nd Street, 160th Street, 166th Street, 184th Street, 190th Street, 196th Street and 203rd Street.

Busby said in July that the SkyTrain line would be “entirely” elevated. He said staff looked at cost-saving measures, such as running the route at-grade, but he said it posed “significant” environmental impacts.

Along with the route, TransLink is proposing three major bus interfaces and some park and ride locations. TransLink would also build a new operations and maintenance facility that would likely be in Langley.

For the SkyTrain route to run all the way to Langley, it would cost an estimated $3.12 billion, which would include eight stations and 55 vehicles. Operating and maintenance costs are estimated at $32.4 million annually, with estimated fare revenue expected to be $21.3 million annually.

Jeff Busby, Surrey-Langley SkyTrain director, said since TransLink doesn’t have the $3.12 billion in funding, staff looked at building the project in stages.

The first scenario is building the SkyTrain to Fleetwood, probably with a terminus station near 166th Street.

For Fleetwood, it would cost an estimated $1.63 billion for seven kilometres, and TransLink would need 25 vehicles to operate the route.

Ridership is estimated to be 39,900 in 2035 and 44,200 by 2050 for running the route to Fleetwood. Operating and maintenance costs are estimated to be $17 million annually, and the estimated fare revenue by 2035 is $10.2 million annually.

“Even this shorter extension is a very effective project, less that 10 minutes from Fleetwood to Surrey centre and opens that part of Surrey to the rest of the transportation network,” said Busby, adding that if the project is approved within TransLink’s anticipated timeline, it could open to the public by the end of 2025.

For Clayton, it would cost an estimated $2.22 billion for 11 kilometres, and TransLink would need 35 vehicles to operate the route.

The plan has controversial, with some arguing an extension to Fleetwood is not the best use of the $1.6 billion on the table.

Dean Barbour, executive director of the Fleetwood BIA, said under this plan, Cloverdale and South Surrey won’t have true rapid transit for decades.

“We’ve been steadfast since day one – connect Guildford and Newton to Surrey Centre, and build out. Spider web it out.”

“I’m not against SkyTrain,” he added. “This has nothing to do with SkyTrain, it has everything to do with connecting Surrey’s town centres in the most affordable and efficient way. That was light rail. The phase three planning under the original plan that got destroyed, this is the money needed to connect South Surrey, Newton, Guildford, Cloverdale, Fleetwood, Clayton, and even Langley.”

Barbour said some believe a SkyTrain in Fleetwood would be a positive.

“It’s not,” he lamented. “Fleetwood will be known in the future as a SkyTrain station. We don’t have the natural assets here that make it a destination. The one asset we do have is the view of Mount Baker, which we’ll lose.”

Barbour also predicted more money to complete the proposed SkyTrain extension to Langley just isn’t in the cards.

“The province has promised a Pattullo Bridge, the province has promised an eight-lane tunnel, they’re looking at a gondola to SFU, Maple Ridge is getting expansion. Where are they going to find another billion dollars to build this out?”

Surrey’s Board of Trade has previously expressed concern that expanding SkyTrain from Surrey into Langley will compromise transit improvements elsewhere in the city, such as to the 104th corridor and in Newton.

“Surrey and south of the Fraser have been waiting so long for transit and transportation investments,” said Anita Huberman, CEO of the board.

A final draft business case is expected to be before the council in January 2020 with March 2020 being the “earliest anticipated date” for government approval, with a 15-month procurement window and four years’ construction.

For more information, on the Surrey-Langley SkyTrain, visit surreylangleyskytrain.ca.

– with files from Lauren Collins



amy.reid@surreynowleader.com

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