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BUCHOLTZ: Plans for Surrey LRT come into focus

Public skepticism remains high as planning continues on second proposed line along Fraser Highway

The first of two planned Surrey LRT lines will be up and running by 2024, according to TransLink project director Stephan Mehr.

Mehr is overseeing details of the region’s first LRT project, scheduled to run from Newton to Guildford. He provided a briefing to the media on May 31, prior to the start of three open houses on the project. While the open houses concluded Tuesday, residents can participate online until June 14.

Mehr has worked on various transit projects, including the Union Pearson Express project in Toronto. He also was part of the team that delivered Canada Line and Evergreen Line to Metro Vancouver.

Mehr offered important details on the LRT line. There will be 11 stops along the 10.5-kilometre line, which will run from just south of 72nd Avenue along King George Boulevard to 152nd Street and 104th Avenue. Along the way, it will stop at King George and Surrey Central SkyTrain stations.

Peak service will be about every five minutes, and travel time along the entire line will be 27 minutes.

Notably, 104th Avenue will not be reduced to one lane each way between King George and 152nd Street. About 70 per cent of the route will remain two lanes each way. As development occurs, the street will be widened so that eventually it will all be two lanes each way – as it has been for years.

Public input was a crucial factor to keep four lanes in as many places as possible, Mehr acknowledged.

The city claimed that a new 105th Avenue road through Hawthorne Park was needed, in part, because of the loss of lanes on 104th Avenue. City construction manager Scott Neuman also said improvements to 100th Avenue, which is being widened to four lanes from King George to 152nd Street, will ease pressure on 104th Avenue.

The project directors are anxious to work with businesses along the route as LRT is built, to ensure construction does not severely impact their businesses. They have learned from the experience along Cambie Street during construction of the Canada Line. They do not want a repeat.

Many questions have been raised about the possibility of crashes involving LRT trains and street traffic. Mehr pointed out that all left turns will be made using “protected” lanes. Traffic lights will be co-ordinated in such a way that the trains, which will have drivers, won’t have to make many added stops, and there will be “protocols to ensure rapid clearing of traffic incidents to keep transit customers moving.”

Mehr and Neuman believe that LRT use will grow significantly, compared with the current 96 B-Line bus on the route.

Not everyone is convinced LRT is best. Some questions reflected widespread skepticism. One publisher asked if the project would be halted if the new Surrey council elected in October opposes it. The project is too far advanced, as procurement will likely start before the election, and construction is set to start in 2019.

Given that public skepticism remains high, it’s worth watching what happens as planning work continues on the second proposed LRT line, along Fraser Highway to Langley City.

Frank Bucholtz writes weekly for the Now-Leader.



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