More SkyTrains for Surrey

By Jeff Nagel - Surrey North Delta Leader - January 16, 2008
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No longer the end of the line: A SkyTrain car sits parked looking east along Fraser Highway near King George Highway. Under the province’s new regional transit plan, one of three SkyTrain expansions will travel along Fraser Highway to Langley by 2030.
EVAN SEAL / THE LEADER



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Surrey is being promised twin SkyTrain extensions that will bring rapid transit to much more of the city, along with new express bus lines that will connect to Langley and White Rock.

A $14-billion package of transit improvements over 12 years was unveiled Monday by Premier Gordon Campbell, who calls it a key plank in B.C.’s strategy to slash greenhouse gases.

The plan also promises to build the Evergreen Line to Coquitlam and add seven new express bus lines in the Lower Mainland.

“People can’t make the choice for transit if we don’t provide for transit,” he said.

Among the projects laid out for completion by 2020 are:

- Construction of the already planned $1.4-billion Evergreen Line from Burnaby through Port Moody to Coquitlam.

- A $2.8-billion westward extension of the Millennium Line along Broadway to UBC.

- A doubling of SkyTrain’s Expo Line capacity by lengthening stations to accommodate longer trains and cut congestion, at a cost of $2 billion.

- A six-kilometre extension of SkyTrain in Surrey east to Guildford, then down 152 Street to the Fraser Highway and southeast as far as 168 Street.

By 2030, the Expo SkyTrain line is to be extended further along the Fraser Highway to Willowbrook Mall in Langley.

A separate branch of SkyTrain would be built from City Centre south along King George Highway as far as 64 Avenue.

The aggressive plan accelerates the pace of planned upgrades laid out by TransLink, but area mayors were left with plenty of unanswered questions.

Chief among them is how it will all be financed.

“The devil’s always in the details,” said Surrey Mayor Dianne Watts, who late last year led a revolt of mayors against TransLink’s much slower plan for South Fraser improvements.

She said she’s “really pleased” to see Victoria’s plan push the timetable forward a decade.

Watts said extending SkyTrain to Guildford “makes perfect sense” although it wasn’t in TransLink’s plan.

“That area is highly densified,” she said.

Where buses are allocated in the region is also something Watts said she and other mayors will be watching.

“You’re going to have to have a sustainable funding source,” she added. “You cannot rely on a wish and a prayer from the federal government for any one particular project. We’re just going to get ourselves in the same predicament as in the past.”

The premier did not announce a much-rumoured carbon tax and said the transit plan doesn’t depend on such a tax.

Instead, the province expects major contributions from the federal government and TransLink.

The promises include adding 1,500 new clean energy buses B.C.-wide at a cost of $1.6 billion, and $1 billion worth of new SkyTrain cars.

“We will double the number of buses in the Lower Mainland,” Campbell pledged.

He said the timing of the major project construction will likely see the Evergreen Line built first, followed by increasing the capacity of the Expo Line, then the extension of the Millennium Line to UBC and the SkyTrain expansion in Surrey.

“I am very satisfied,” said Port Moody Mayor Joe Trasolini of the Evergreen Line commitment. “We asked for $400 million. They pledged $400 million.”

Transportation minister Kevin Falcon said the plan will deliver three new major rapid transit expansions in the next decade – much faster than the one-line-per-decade pace up to now.

Seven new RapidBus BC lines would be created in the Lower Mainland, including two routes linking Langley to either SkyTrain in Surrey or to Burnaby via the Port Mann Bridge.

Those routes would ultimately extend east to both Abbotsford and Chilliwack, Falcon said.

The $14-billion price tag includes previously announced projects, including the $2-billion Canada Line, which opens in 2009.

The new commitments add up to $11.1 billion, province-wide.

The province would pick up $4.75 billion. It’s asking Ottawa for $3.1 billion and TransLink would contribute $2.75 billion. A further $500 million would come from cities outside the Lower Mainland.

NDP transportation critic Maurine Karagianis said the plans still don’t offer relief fast enough.

She also criticized the province’s intent to pursue the expansion as a series of public-private partnerships.

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