Surrey light rail price tag hits $1.65 billion

TransLink CEO Kevin Desmond admitted that costs have risen 33 per cent since 2015

It will cost TransLink a total of $1.65 billion to roll out out the first phase of Surrey light rail by 2024, according to the agency’s executives.

TransLink unveiled the updated cost Monday as part of the $7.3 billion price tag for phase two of the Mayors’ Council overall 10-year-vision.

CEO Kevin Desmond said that costs for the Surrey-Newton-Guildford line have gone up by 33 per cent ($410 million) since 2015.

Desmond acknowledged that it was a “significant” increase from 2015 estimates presented to voters in the TransLink referendum, when the first phase of light rail was expected to cost $1.25 billion and the second phase was estimated at $890 million.

An extra $30 million is being set aside to begin pre-design work on the Surrey to Langley light rail line, although Desmond declined to provide a construction cost estimate.

The route map for both phases of Surrey and Langley light rail. (Submitted)

READ: Surrey mayor says light rail announcement for Surrey ‘final piece of puzzle’

The agency’s CEO cited increased property costs, construction delays and a weaker Canadian dollar for the cost overruns.

“These [new] estimates are the result of two years of very, very rigorous work – engineering, public consultations, peer reviews – to ensure that these costs at reasonable to take to the next phase of the program,” said Desmond, noting that costs will only continue to rise if delays continue.

“This region needs to hurry up and get on building these projects,” he said. “The longer we wait, the more it’s going to cost.”

Light rail has faced significant opposition in Surrey as TransLink has rolled out the project.

In response to Monday’s announcement, SkyTrain for Surrey founding director Daryl Dela Cruz called it the “worst value rapid transit investment in Canada.”

Cruz called for the “immediate cancellation” of light rail in Surrey and its removal from the Mayors’ Council 10-year-vision.

READ: SkyTrain for Surrey wants LRT pulled from Mayors’ Council plan

Procurement for the initial line will begin in 2018, with construction to start in 2020 and trains expected to run between Newton, Surrey Centre and Guildford by 2024, despite Surrey Mayor Linda Hepner telling Black Press Media that the line could be operational by 2021.

The trains will run in their own separate lane that will be unaffected by traffic, but still have to obey stop signs and traffic signals.

It will take nine minutes to get from Surrey Centre to Guildford and 13 to get from Newton to Surrey Centre.

The $7.3 billion plan will also include a Surrey B-Line to run between Newton and Surrey Centre along Scott Road and expansion of bus service out to 68 Avenue and eastern Fraser Heights in Surrey.

The public will have two weeks to weigh in. The public consultation that TransLink launched today on the $7.3-billion plan will be over by May 11, and both the Mayors’ Council and TransLink’s board are scheduled to approve the investment plan in June.


@katslepian

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