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Mayors' Council votes in favour Surrey SkyTrain, but province won't cover extra cost

Last Updated Dec 13, 2018 at 6:59 pm PST

Mayors's Council meeting on Dec. 13 to discuss SkyTrain extension from Surrey to Langley. (Martin MacMahon/NEWS 1130)
Summary

Local mayors have approved planning work for a SkyTrain Surrey extension

But if you live in Langley you might be out of luck, the extension will only go as far as Fleetwood or Clayton Heights

Other mayors also pushed successfully for Surrey to pay compensation for sunk costs associated the cancellation of LRT

NEW WESTMINSTER (NEWS 1130) – TransLink’s Mayors’ Council has voted to proceed with the planning and development for the SkyTrain extension in Surrey along the Fraser Highway.

Politicians met at TransLink’s headquarters in New Westminster on Thursday to discuss the project.

TransLink has said that the $1.6-billion originally budgeted for Light Rail Train (LRT) may not be enough to cover the SkyTrain expansion.

RELATED: TransLink Mayors’ Council votes to suspend Surrey LRT project

So while Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum on a line running from his community to Langley, the line, if eventually completed, would only go as far as Fleetwood or Clayton Heights.

“It can definitely develop a SkyTrain project among the Fraser Highway but it does not look likely that that funding will be enough to get you all the way to Langley,” council chair and New Westminster Mayor Jonathan Cote said.

Other mayors also pushed successfully for Surrey to pay compensation for sunk costs associated with the cancellation of LRT.

No dollar figure was set for that, but Macallan hinted it could involve Surrey giving TransLink land for the new line.

“Want to make clear that the work we’re going to be doing over the next year is really examining all the options we have to move this line as far as possible and being able to have the greatest benefit for public transit,” Cote added. “But I think, for us, we do want to put out the reservation thought that we don’t believe the funding at this point is going to get us all the way to the City of Langley.”

McCallum told council that Surrey residents supported SkyTrain over LRT in “overwhelming” numbers, noting the election was a “referendum.”

TransLink staff said public consultation about the expansion will be done. Mayors are hoping the project will be operational by 2025.

RELATED: Light rail advocate believes LRT plan was destined to fail

Mayors’ Council voted to suspend the Surrey-Newton-Guildford LRT project, including all spending back in November.

TransLink has already spent $50 million on planning for light rail, and the city has spent $20 million in pre-construction work.

Province won’t cover extra costs of SkyTrain project: Premier

If SkyTrain for Surrey ends up costing more than LRT, neither the province nor the federal government will be filling that gap, according to Premier John Horgan.

“We increased the provincial contribution from 33 per cent to 40 per cent and we are at our max in the Lower Mainland,” Horgan tells NEWS 1130. “We want to see it go ahead and if the mayors’ council believes that SkyTrain is a better option for Surrey, we’re happy to fund it to the extent we were funding the previous plan.”

Horgan adds he’s discussed this with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and, even though we’re heading into a federal election year, he’s indicated Ottawa’s 40 per cent share of funding won’t grow either.

“If it’s going to be re-opened, that’ll create delays in Vancouver, it’ll create delays in other communities in the Lower Mainland who are looking to see increased bus service,” he says. “He and I were together in Montreal last week and we talked about this very issue and we both agreed that plan that we both funded was what was put before us by the previous government.

“You’ll have to ask the Prime Minister, but I think both of us are of the view that funding plan was locked down this year.”

‘Quite disappointing’

Meanwhile, Colleen Clark, executive director of the Greater Langley Chamber added they are holding out hope that the federal and provincial governments will reconsider boosting their share of funding so the expansion can be extended to Langley.

“And now that it’s going to not be happening in this next phase, is quite disappointing,” she said. “Surrey and Langley are the largest growing communities in the Lower Mainland, the fastest growing communities population-wise, and we really need to try to get as much transit out here as we possibly can.”

She said Thursday’s decision doesn’t just hurt local business leaders, who’ve spent several years lobbying for transit services to be extended, but people who already have difficulty getting around.

“If somebody gives you tickets to a Canucks game, basically from here, you have to drive either all the way into Surrey and park and go down SkyTrain or you have to drive all the way in,” Clark added. “It would be great to have somewhere to park in Langley to jump on the SkyTrain and get that car off the road, so people can’t get where they need to go without a car.”