SURREY (NEWS 1130) – Prelimintary work is set to begin next week on a SkyTrain extension of the Expo Line from Surrey all the way to Langley, following a $1.3-billion funding announcement from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Friday. But the CEO of Surrey’s Board of Trade is already looking ahead to what else is needed in that city.
With Surrey expected to be B.C.’s largest city within a decade, Anita Huberman says SkyTrain isn’t the only solution.
“We need to keep people to here, to live, learn, work, and play in Surrey, Langley, and all the way to Abbotsford,” she said.
“We’re going to have another 1.5 million people moving into the Metro Vancouver region by 2050, and many of them will be living here in Surrey. We need solutions now. We can’t wait 30 years. We can’t only rely on SkyTrain.”
Related article: Trudeau announces $1.3 billion for Surrey-Langley SkyTrain extension
The 16 km, eight-stop extension will connect the existing King George Station in Surrey City Centre to 203 Street in Langley Centre. TransLink estimates the total cost of the project to be around $3.1 billion.
Huberman says Surrey has been “starved” for transportation investments. While she’s pleased with the federal funding to finally get the project off the ground, she’s already looking forward to what else is needed South of the Fraser.
“It’s not going to serve all of Surrey and it’s not going to serve the largest business area — Newton, Campbell Heights, Cloverdale, South Surrey — these are all areas where businesses are,” she added.
She argues the SkyTrain route will take people into Vancouver, but won’t keep people in Surrey.
“People will flock to taking that mode of public transportation”
Langley City Councillor Nathan Pachal also says it’s taken too long to get this far.
“When you look at climate change, we know that we need to give people options that are as compelling as being in a vehicle and driving. I think SkyTrain is that compelling option,” he said.
“We’ve seen how when you build SkyTrain to places whether it’s in Vancouver, Burnaby, down into Richmond, and over to Coquitlam, and Port Moody … people will flock to taking that mode of public transportation. I expect the same thing here.”
He notes Langley City has been working on a new Official Community Plan that’s built around SkyTrain, transit, walking, and cycling.
Preliminary work on the SkyTrain extension is expected to begin Tuesday.
“There’s already work done to get to Fleetwood, so I’m not surprised,” Pachal said of the quick start to construction. “They still have to complete the detailed engineering work from the Fleetwood station to Langley City.”
He says he’s pleased with Friday’s announcement “because you know it’s real,” but admits the timing is rather convenient.
“I know the feds are probably not saying there’s an election, but I think we all know there’s an election coming up. And so I think the timing of this is perfectly aligned with that expectation,” he said.
For her part, Huberman has long been an advocate of light rail transit.
“We said from the very beginning that the funding that was originally allocated to LRT could not take SkyTrain all the way to Langley. And so we are going to see huge construction cost overruns. We’re going to see certain segments of the population that will continue to be underserved, in terms of transit.”
She thinks there is room for a commuter rail concept in Surrey and other South Fraser neighbourhoods.
“There is currently a rail corridor in existence that could be utilized to take people within the South Fraser economic region. Light rail could be brought back into the picture, but that’s going to need significant private sector partnerships,” she said.
Huberman notes more buses will only increase congestion and while SkyTrain is “better than nothing,” it’s “only a piece of the puzzle.”