Have no fear, expanding SkyTrain from Surrey into Langley is a “key priority” for B.C.’s NDP government. That’s the latest word from Rob Fleming, provincial minister of transportation and infrastructure, who sang the praises of what would be the first major rail project south of the Fraser in about 30 years.
“I wish I had an announcement to make today but what I can say is we have determined a pretty healthy, high level of interest from the federal government in what this project represents in terms of being able to ship people around, to relieve some of the congestion problems,” Fleming said.
“This is tremendous opportunity for us to make an investment that will be significant in terms of its scale but also the opportunity to try and accelerate it as best we can using the COVID economic recovery period as an opportunity in that regard.”
Fleming said replacing the George Massey tunnel is also “critically important” and the provincial government is making “significant progress” on that. “The business case on this one was delivered to me just shy of Christmas Eve, government’s actively reviewing that.”
Bowinn Ma, the provincial minister of state for infrastructure, said the provincial government will be doing a “broader” transportation study for the Fraser Valley. “We want to support smart community planning,” she said.
Ma said in “no uncertain terms” the government made a promise during the last provincial election campaign to build a new SkyTrain line through Surrey all the way to Langley, “and we intend to deliver.”
“Over at the Pattullo Bridge, we’re also making progress,” Ma said. “In advance of major construction getting going later on this spring, initial work on the main bridge tower has already begun. On land, the steel piles for the bridge foundation construction have been fabricated and crews are mobilizing on the south side of the Fraser River.”
Fleming and Ma were guest speakers during a digital meeting hosted by the Surrey Board of Trade on Monday, the same day the board released its fifth annual Surrey Road Survey Report.
Anita Huberman, CEO of the board, noted that the city’s network of more than 4,500 lane kilometres of road is taking on an increasing number of commuter and commercial users.
“We need planning and action that anticipates needs and that results in infrastructure construction well in advance of increased demand, not long after the capacity is exceeded,” Huberman said.
Conclusions arising from the survey include the need for bridge on-and-off ramps to be widened, and that all levels of government need to work together to develop for the South Fraser region a comprehensive transit and transportation plan that “would not be subject to political interference.”
The survey results indicate that for 63 per cent of the roughly 600 respondents, the Surrey traffic corridor most in need of attention is arterial widening Fraser Highway to four lanes between Whalley Boulevard and 148th Street, including through Green Timbers Park. Moreover, 52.9 per cent want 152nd Street widened to four lanes from 40th Avenue to 50th Avenue while 51.7 per cent want 64th Avenue widened to five lanes between 176th Street and Fraser Highway.
Surrey’s top three intersections needing improvement, according to the survey, are 64th Avenue and 168th Street (74.7 per cent), 104th Avenue and 156th Street (73.5 per cent), and Fraser Highway and 184th Street (71.1 per cent).
As for public transit, 79.3 per cent of respondents indicated Surrey “should have and definitely needs” rapid transit along Fraser Highway from the city centre to Langley, 67.8 per cent say the same for rapid transit between Guildford, the city centre and Newton on King George Boulevard and 104 Avenue while 66.7 per cent say there should be new B-Line bus service to South Surrey/White Rock.
Huberman asked Fleming to make a financial commitment to expanding SkyTrain all the way into Langley in the next provincial budget.
“We’ve always had an eye on this project and viewed it as a two-phase project,” Fleming replied. “What I would say is that we’ll continue to acknowledge and work with TransLink, knowing that they have skin in the game and a previous commitment, at least to the first phase of it. We do look at this project as an opportunity to accelerate the economic recovery through as expeditious a project as we can make it, so Ottawa has been informed of our prioritization of that. There still is a little tidying up to do though.”