TransLink CEO weighs in on Surrey’s move from LRT to SkyTrain

Kevin Desmond says he’ll work with Surrey, and the region’s 22 other mayors

TransLink CEO Kevin Desmond says it could be possible to build SkyTrain to Langley for a lower cost than initially thought, but not $1.9 billion as Surrey’s new mayor has promised.

Desmond made the comment to reporters following his address to the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade at the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver Thursday. It was his first appearance since Surrey’s new city council nixed long-term plans for light rail in favour of SkyTrain.

Desmond said government funding was likely to switch over seamlessly between light rail and SkyTrain.

“The signals we have heard publicly from both the governments of Canada and British Columbia is both levels of government are willing to see what our Mayors’ Council [on Regional Transportation] and our board decides,” he said.

“From what I’ve heard… they want to make sure that public transit infrastructure is delivered in Surrey. That signals to me that there will be flexibility.”

The mayors’ 10-year vision on transportation has been thrown into uncertainty ever since Doug McCallum snagged the mayor’s chair in Surrey during the municipal election on Oct. 20. He had campaigned on a promise to abandon the LRT plans and expand SkyTrain instead to reduce congestion.

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

The mayors’ council, which includes 17 new members since the municipal vote, is set to meet for the first time next Thursday.

McCallum had promised to extend SkyTrain to Langley for the same cost as LRT, or at least closer to the $1.4-billion price of the similar-length Evergreen SkyTrain extension in the Tri-Cities.

“There are different ways to build the line that might reduce the cost,” Desmond said.

But he added he wasn’t aware of any extra funding to make up the nearly billion-dollar cost difference between $1.9 billion light rail and $2.9 billion SkyTrain.

He wouldn’t provide a timeline for the potential SkyTrain extension, saying “a lot of discussions” still need to be had with provincial and federal governments, as well as with the new members of the mayors’ council, as well as public engagement and design work.

Desmond acknowledged the $50-70 million that TransLink estimates it has already spent on light rail is a sunk cost. But added: “If the City of Surrey does not want that project and will not cooperate with that project, we cannot build that project.”

Surrey council unanimously passes motion to ‘cancel ’ LRT

He said TransLink had not yet looked into McCallum’s idea of ground-level SkyTrain running along agricultural land beside Fraser Highway, but that staff are open to alternatives from municipal officials.

Whichever way the region decided to go, Desmond said, “one way or the other we’re going to build rail in Surrey.”


@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

Young Muslims offer helping hand to isolated residents throughout Lower Mainland

Neighbourhood Helper campaign aims to get help to people who can’t leave their homes

White Rock’s promenade to close to the public

Public access to popular waterfront walkway closing April 10: city

Christopherson Steps, 1,001 Steps closed due to COVID-19

Access restricted to Crescent Beach over Easter weekend, City of Surrey announces

LETTER: With a long road of recovery ahead, Surrey must keep RCMP

To change for the sake of change shows weak leadership, inability to understand needs of community

Urban Safari Rescue Society starts online video presentations

Animal shelter struggling to stay afloat during pandemic

UPDATE: Canadians awake to extra COVID-19 emergency benefit money, feds clarify changes

The CRA and federal officials are working to clarify the confusion around payments

COVID-19 world update: 6.6 million U.S. jobless claims; alcohol sales banned in Bangkok

Comprehensive digest of coronavirus news items from around the world

B.C. sorting medical equipment sales, donation offers for COVID-19

Supply hub has call out for masks, gowns, coronavirus swabs

B.C. records five more deaths due to COVID-19, 45 new cases

A total of 838 people have recovered from the virus

Major crimes investigating sudden death of North Okanagan child

The 8 year old was flown to Kelowna General Hospital and died hours later

BC institution has highest number of positive results for COVID-19

11 inmates in Mission test positive for coronavirus, more than any other federal prison in Canada

Easter Bunny added to B.C.’s list of essential workers

Premier John Horgan authorizes bunny to spread “eggs-ellent cheer” throughout province

Travellers returning to B.C. must have self-isolation plan or face quarantine: Horgan

Premier John Horgan says forms must be filled out by travellers

More than 400 animals have been adopted amid pandemic: B.C. SPCA

People are taking this time of social distancing to find a loyal companion through the animal welfare group

Most Read