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TransLink's CEO explains rising costs for major projects

Last Updated Apr 30, 2018 at 7:06 pm PDT

(Photo credit: Dustin Godfrey for NEWS 1130)

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – By the time a new Broadway SkyTrain extension opens, the cost could top $3 billion. And that’s not the only project in TransLink’s phase-two plans with a price tag that’s gone up more than 20 per cent since 2015.

TransLink CEO Kevin Desmond admits the $2.83-billion Millennium Line extension and the $1.65-billion Surrey Newton-Guildford light rail transit line are hundreds of millions higher than they were when Metro Vancouver voters said no to a sales tax hike three years ago.

“By the time we go through the procurement process, the numbers could change again, as well,” says Desmond.

“We are expecting very competitive bids for these two projects — the Surrey project and the Millennium Line extension — and the projects are costed out fairly conservatively at this point in time to ensure that through the bid process, we’re in a very good place within our budget.”

On April 30, 2018, TransLink CEO Kevin Desmond calls Phase Two of its investment plan the ‘Largest single transit investment in BC history’ with support from all levels of government. (Marcella Bernardo, NEWS 1130 Photo)

As for construction, Desmond says the Broadway line could be completed in 2025, with Surrey light rail ready in 2024.

“If our board and the Mayor’s Council adopt the proposal at the end of June, we would expect both the Surrey Light Rail Line and the Millennium Line extension to go forward to the initial round of procurement later this year.”

The next phase of transit improvements across Metro Vancouver, totalling $7.3 billion, makes way for 108 new SkyTrain cars, and 95 replacement cars.

Riders can also expect an increase in service on the Expo and Millennium Lines during the morning and afternoon rush hours, evenings, and weekends starting in 2019. TransLink expects same boost in service will take effect for the Canada Line the following year.

Desmond, however, isn’t saying ‘I told you so’ three years after voters said no to a sales tax hike to help finance the projects.

“We’re in a good place now where we’ve done rigorous work, we have full support from all levels of government in this region to move forward with a long-awaited transit program. We need these types of mobility improvements for this region going forward–it is absolutely demanding these types of mobility improvements.”

With approval of this plan expected by the end of June, a key problem could be finding enough workers to build these projects which have overlapping timelines.

Translink VP Sany Zein says the procurement process should be competitive.

“We’re expecting a significant level of international interest in coming and bidding in this process. As you can imagine major infrastructure projects like this are fairly unique and tend to attract an international level of bidders.”

Once construction of the Broadway line starts, Zein says it shouldn’t be as disruptive as it was when the Evergreen and Canada Line SkyTrain extensions were built.

“We are very invested in keeping our buses moving on Broadway on keeping it as an effective goods-movement corridor as well as for pedestrians, cyclists, and motorists and all for that has been made into the business case.”