The Surrey SkyTrain took another step towards becoming a reality at the TransLink Mayors’ Council meeting on Thursday, despite its total funding still considered up in the air.
The mayors voted to allow TransLink staff to proceed with planning and project development for the project, which would see a 16-kilometre Expo Line extension to Langley.
The work plan that was approved projects at least part of the extension could be up and running by 2025.
That plan includes 11 steps of pre-construction work to be completed over the next 15 months, including confirming the design and construction requirements, along with conducting environmental reviews and updating the total cost of the project.
Despite the tight time frame, TransLink staff told the mayors that the work plan was “doable.”
WATCH: Coverage of the Surrey SkyTrain on Globalnews.ca
Several mayors expressed concern over the switch to SkyTrain and the costs that could be left for the City of Langley to potentially cover.
In response to questions from members, including Richmond Mayor Malcom Brodie, of whether the majority of residents wanted the change, Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum said 80 per cent of people in Surrey wanted SkyTrain, calling the recent civic election a “referendum” on LRT.
McCallum has continued to insist the SkyTrain can be built with the $1.6 billion set aside for the Surrey LRT. At Thursday’s meeting, TransLink staff said they stand behind their previous estimate of $2.9 billion.
Premier John Horgan said Thursday that the funding model put in place by the province to cover their portion of the LRT wouldn’t change if it switches to SkyTrain, adding Surrey would only be able to build half as far as they are planning under the current model.
WATCH: John Horgan comments on Surrey SkyTrain expansion plan and provincial funding for project
That would mean the extension would only go as far as Fleetwood, which mayors said would make no sense as there’s no development in the surrounding area that would support having a terminus station built there.
Suggestions to send the motion back to TransLink staff to determine alternative sources of revenue to cover the remaining $1 billion needed to build all the way to Langley were shut down by council chair and New Westminster Mayor Jonathan Cote, who called it out of order.
The cost of switching from an LRT service along the Fraser Highway to SkyTrain has not yet been set in stone, but the work plan presented to the Mayors’ Council Thursday sets aside $30 million for pre-design work.
It also pointed out $56 million has already been spent on the Surrey LRT project to date, which Township of Langley Mayor Jack Froese said needs to be dealt with.
Brodie introduced an amendment calling on Surrey to pay that $56 million itself, citing the public consultation and approvals that were in place before McCallum started moving towards SkyTrain. The other mayors agreed, but only if a specific price tag was taken out.
The 16-kilometre elevated line would have eight stations plus one future station and 55 SkyTrain cars, according to the document.
The plan will now go to the TransLink board for approval. Staff will then start implementing the work plan and report back on their progress in January.
—With files from Janet Brown, Robyn Crawford and Richard Zussman