"The Surrey-Langley Skytrain will connect people South of the Fraser to more housing, employment, schools, and services, encouraging higher-density and mixed-use development around SkyTrain stations.”
What does the extension of the Surrey-Langley SkyTrain mean for the region?
We have been waiting a long time for the expansion of the SkyTrain in Surrey. In fact, it has been 27 years since the last new track was put down in this city. With Surrey’s population approaching 600,000 people, the Surrey-Langley Skytrain (SLS) makes a lot of sense on several levels. This rapid transit project will connect people South of the Fraser to more housing, employment, schools, and services, encouraging higher-density and mixed-use development around SkyTrain stations. It’s also good for the environment as every new stop built will translate into new riders and, ultimately, less cars on the road.
Will the $1.3 billion allocated for this transit investment be sufficient for our growing region South of the Fraser?
$1.3 billion is the federal portion for the SLS, with the province also committing to the project. The SLS is the first step to connect Surrey and the communities South of the Fraser where growth is the fastest. I would like to commend the federal and provincial governments for recognizing the need for mass transit projects in this region and I look forward to working with them on future projects.
Being a long-time SkyTrain advocate, you are responsible for cancelling the proposed Surrey Newton-Guildford Light Rail Transit (LRT) project. Will we see that make a comeback?
Not under my watch. SkyTrain is the rapid transit of choice of not just Surrey, but for the entire region. It makes no sense to have differing technologies cobbled together and then call it a cohesive system. For the Metro region, the most efficient and the easiest way to integrate into our rapid transit system is the SkyTrain. This has been the blueprint since Expo 86 and there is no sound reason to change course.
The project has a completion date of 2025; how will Surrey residents be assured that their lives will not be disrupted?
With a major transportation infrastructure project like this, there will inevitably be shifts to regular traffic patterns during construction. Every effort will be made to minimize the impact to the public during construction.
What is your reaction to the Surrey Board of Trade saying that the Skytrain investment from the Federal Government is good but does not serve all of Surrey’s transportation needs?
It’s easy to be an armchair quarterback and second guess everything, but the fact is there is not an infinite pot of money to dip into. The amount of money that has been committed to the SLS by the federal and provincial governments is substantial and I am very proud that we are at the stage we are now. I will always be advocating to improve our transportation network, but it’s based with the knowledge that major infrastructure projects do not get funded and materialized overnight.
Councillor Linda Annis tweeted that you had said that the LRT could be constructed for the same cost, however it will cost twice that amount. Why is that the case?
It has been almost three years since the Council’s decision to switch to SkyTrain and in that time we have experienced not only a rise in materials and construction costs, but a pandemic. To tie the current costs to what was costed out in 2018 is misguided and unfair. It’s like questioning why the price of gas today is not at the same price three years ago. Given the real-world factors that we have experienced, it should come as no surprise that costs have increased. Despite that, the well-paying jobs that will be generated during construction and the transportation, and environmental benefits that will be gained when completed makes the SLS well worthwhile.
Do you feel that the timing is a pre-election promise and a strategy to garner votes?
No. the SLS has been in the works since November 2018. A project of this magnitude takes time and it was a case of having the business case for the project completed before this step of funding could be announced.
The transportation plan has identified three priority corridors for rapid transit in Surrey and Langley, which include 104 Avenue, King George Boulevard, and Fraser Highway. Why has the region of South Surrey been left out?
The SLS is the first significant investment in rapid transit in this part of the region in more than 25 years. Now that this important project is off the ground, I am confident that there will be continued investment to expand rapid transit in Surrey. TransLink’s long-range plan calls for a spur line to run SkyTrain from King George to South Surrey and White Rock.
The Mayor of Langley said in June that the final piece of the puzzle is to get the SkyTrain out to 203rd Street in her city - will there be dialogue between the mayors and the federal government over what extension happens in that area.
I am always in dialogue with senior levels of government, that’s how this funding was secured for the SLS. With the growing need to expand rapid transit South of the Fraser, rest assured that I won’t be ending my chats with the Prime Minister and Premier anytime soon.
What message would you like to share with the residents of Surrey?
The major projects that are happening from the SLS to the replacement of the Pattullo Bridge to the switch to a civic police department are proof that Surrey is being transformed at a phenomenal pace. Many of these projects are long overdue and the Council and I are making sure they don’t stay on the drawing board any longer. There are great things happening in Surrey and it is an exciting time to live or work in this great city of ours.