Delayed or not delayed? That is the question surrounding the SkyTrain expansion in Metro Vancouver.
News reports came in this month that the $3.94-billion Surrey Langley SkyTrain project’s completion date was being pushed back from 2025 to 2028. The coverage stemmed from a new report scheduled for review by TransLink’s board of directors which stated the 16-kilometre project would be open in 2028.
The report prompted comment from public officials, including Surrey’s mayor and a long-time champion of the project Doug McCallum.
“The reports of the Surrey Langley SkyTrain being delayed is disconcerting given the fact that funding for this vital project has been fully committed,” said McCallum in a statement. “This was confirmed in July, when the prime minister was in Surrey to announce the federal portion of the Surrey Langley SkyTrain, to go along with the provincial funding commitment that had been previously made. It has been close to 30 years since the last rapid transit expansion in Surrey. For a city that is home to close to 600,000 people, rapid transit is long overdue and is of critical need now.”
McCallum added the city is moving full speed ahead on its portion of SkyTrain early work with the widening of the Fraser Highway.
“The time of talk and promises must come to an end,” said McCallum. “What we need now is the political will by all levels of government to get this long-talked about project off the drawing board and to get shovels into the ground. There can no longer be any delay for rapid transit expansion in Surrey and communities south of Fraser.”
However, Langley Councillor Nathan Pachal pushed back against news that the project was delayed, arguing that 2025 was never set as the project’s completion date.
Pachal explained in January 2020, TransLink released the phase one business case for the Surrey-Langley SkyTrain project. Phase one would have the SkyTrain terminate in Fleetwood and be open to passengers in late 2025. Phase two to downtown Langley was not part of this.
Since the release of the original business case, there was a provincial election in which the B.C. NDP promised to build and help fund the Surrey-Langley SkyTrain project as one phase all the way to downtown Langley.
Responsibility for the project also shifted from TransLink to the province. The province has now tasked TI Corp with the one-phase project.
Pachal said because TransLink staff only completed the detailed design work and business case to get to Fleetwood, provincial staff are working on completing the business case and detailed design work to build the project as one phase. He expects this to be done in the fall and it is anticipated that the project will wrapped up sometime around 2028.
“I think there was a degree of politics involved with some trying to push that it should still be two phases,” said Pachal. “The province has made it quite clear that it will be in one phase and completed around 2028.”
He noted the city has been hard at work drafting its “Nexus of Community” plan which aims to plot out density and development around the SkyTrain line.
“For us this is transformational,” said Pachal. “Residents can go from owning two cars to one or even zero. That is part of the affordability equation. It’s good for the environment and the pocketbook.”
He added that despite comments and reports of delays, the project is full steam ahead.