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TransLink to move forward with Surrey SkyTrain extension, but getting to Langley remains in limbo

TransLink's Mayors' Council has approved moving ahead with the Surrey SkyTrain extension.
TransLink's Mayors' Council has approved moving ahead with the Surrey SkyTrain extension. TransLink

The TransLink Mayors’ Council has officially approved moving forward with extending SkyTrain service through Surrey — despite not having the money to get to Langley.

The mayors agreed to proceed with the extension using just the current funding of $1.6 billion, which only gets the track to Fleetwood near 166 Street and builds three other stops in between.

This decision means TransLink staff can move forward to work on the business case, which will ask senior levels of government to cover the remaining cost of getting to Langley.

WATCH: (Aired July 19) Surrey-Langley SkyTrain extension would cost significantly more than funding

Click to play video: 'Surrey-Langley SkyTrain extension would cost significantly more than funding' Surrey-Langley SkyTrain extension would cost significantly more than funding
Surrey-Langley SkyTrain extension would cost significantly more than funding – Jul 19, 2019

That business case is set to be delivered by mid-2020.

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“I think with huge public support, the ridership figures are good, the cost-benefit is good,” said Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum. “I think this project needs to go forward as soon as possible.”

Building the SkyTrain all the way out to the City of Langley — a project McCallum partly based his candidacy for mayor on — is slated to cost $3.12 billion, which has not been secured.

READ MORE: Current funding would get Surrey SkyTrain 4 stops to Fleetwood: TransLink

That bill almost matches the cost of the now-scrapped 27-kilometre Surrey LRT, but will only build 16.5 kilometres of SkyTrain track.

Some mayors, particularly those on the North Shore, objected to moving ahead with a project that will require more funding to complete.

But Mayors’ Council chair and New Westminster Mayor Jonathan Cote said the project is still an important one to move ahead with.

WATCH: (Aired July 19) Group proposes alternative to Surrey-to-Langley LRT SkyTrain option

Click to play video: 'Bill Vander Zalm’s group propose alternative to Surrey to Langley LRT SkyTrain option' Bill Vander Zalm’s group propose alternative to Surrey to Langley LRT SkyTrain option
Bill Vander Zalm’s group propose alternative to Surrey to Langley LRT SkyTrain option – Jul 19, 2019

“I recognize this is a difficult decision and if approved, will be steering us further down this direction” towards more SkyTrain infrastructure south of the Fraser, Cote said ahead of the vote.

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Following the vote, the Mayors’ Council said in a statement it is confident funding can be fully secured from the provincial and federal governments.

“It’s very exciting to see the plan moving into action,” Langley City Mayor Val van den Broek said in the statement. “This project is a key part of the 10-Year Vision and will deliver the rapid transit residents have been calling for.”

Township of Langley Mayor Jack Froese added the combined population of Surrey and Langley is expected to rise by 280,000 people by 2035, making the extension crucial to the region.

READ MORE: SkyTrain extension has 85% support in Surrey and Langley, says TransLink survey

“We must be ready, or we will be stuck in congestion that hurts our economy and the quality of life of our residents,” he said.

TransLink estimates the full extension to Langley will serve 62,000 riders daily by 2035.

McCallum claimed those ridership projections are a low estimate, citing upcoming developments in the region that he said will boost ridership even higher.

Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart, who has become McCallum’s chief ally in fighting for the Surrey SkyTrain extension, was unable to attend the meeting.

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READ MORE: New renderings hint at how future Surrey-Langley SkyTrain line could look

That led to speculation the vote may end up shifting away from McCallum’s favour, which ended up being unfounded.

In a statement, Surrey Board of Trade CEO Anita Huberman said only building the SkyTrain extension to Fleetwood will compromise transit in Surrey overall.

Huberman also gave a presentation to the Mayors’ Council arguing switching from LRT was a mistake.

“The Surrey Board of Trade supported LRT because it would be the most effective means by which to connect the town centres, making transit within Surrey the objective, making Surrey the destination,” the CEO said in the statement.

“We could have had shovels in the ground right now helping to connect our town centres as a start.”

—With files from Janet Brown and Simon Little

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