TransLink Mayors' Council endorses suspending Surrey light-rail project and recognizing city's request for SkyTrain

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      The election of Doug McCallum's Safe Surrey Coalition has led to a dramatic change in regional transportation planning.

      Today, the TransLink Mayors' Council voted to endorse staff's decision to suspend the Surrey-Newton-Guildford light-rail project. 

      A majority of the mayors also voted to recognize the City of Surrey's "request to change the technology and timing of the Fraser Highway project from LRT to SkyTrain".

      If a SkyTrain project is built, it would "draw only on the available funding currently allocated for South of Fraser rapid transit" in TransLink's phase two plan.

      In addition, the mayors voted to ask staff for additional analysis and a work plan regarding developing SkyTrain down the Fraser Highway to Langley.

      Prior to the vote, McCallum told the mayors that more than 80 percent of Surrey residents prefer SkyTrain over light rail. And he stated that this is why the party that previously controlled Surrey council was defeated in the October 20 election.

      "The past council was very supportive, unanimously, in light rail," McCallum said. "We were the opposite. We believe unanimously in SkyTrain. We did do the public consulting over three months."

      He added that he spoke extensively about this topic in the three months leading up to the election.

      "I did not in our community see one single person who was for light rail. There is no support in the city of Surrey for light rail."

      Surrey mayor Doug McCallum claims the cost of SkyTrain could come down by $200 million to $300 million if TransLink's contractors 24/7 on a project down the Fraser Highway

      City of North Vancouver mayor Linda Buchanan expressed concerns about the impact that a switch to SkyTrain could have on the overall regional transportation plan. She also talked about how intense traffic congestion has become on the North Shore—and the need for funding to address this issue.

      That has her worried about the costs associated with switching from light rail to SkyTrain in Surrey.

      "That business case needs to be presented to us so we can make a much more informed decision," Buchanan said.

      Richmond mayor Malcolm Brodie emphasized the importance of gathering more information before charging ahead with "planning, consultation, design, and procurement readiness" for SkyTrain.

      "I'm not in favour of it without the due consideration, deliberation, and consultation in the current plan," Brodie said.

      Coquitlam mayor Richard Stewart talked about the importance of having more budgeting information before TransLink gives the green light to SkyTrain down the Fraser Highway.

      Earlier in the meeting, however, the Coquitlam mayor emphasized that he's supportive of Surrey's desire for an "elevated line".

      Vancouver mayor Kennedy Stewart said that the people spoke in the last election. And while he said that the mayors' council is "guided" by past decisions, it's not bound by them.

      "The people—through a democratic process that's the envy of the world—have come forward and said 'we want this change'," Stewart said. "I respect Mayor McCallum's voice very much."

      Richmond mayor Malcolm Brodie wants a lot more due diligence done before the region gives a green light to another SkyTrain project.

      Prior to the vote, Brodie received clarification from TransLink staff that the motion will not affect other projects that are being financed under TransLink's phase two plan.

      The Surrey-Newton-Guildford light-rail project has been projected to cost $1.65 billion.

      TransLink has previously estimated that building SkyTrain from King George Station to Langley would cost $2.9 billion.

      The chair of the TransLink Mayors' Council, Jonathan Cote, previously told Global B.C. that the current funding envelope would only allow for construction of SkyTrain from King George Station to the Fleetwood area of Surrey. It wouldn't reach Cloverdale, Clayton, or Langley.

      McCallum, however, claimed at today's meeting that if TransLink's construction of SkyTrain occurred 24 hours per day, seven days per week, the regional transportation authority could save $200 million to $300 million.

      He also purported that a light-rail project would somehow separate Surrey residents from Metro Vancouver, even though it would connect transit riders with Surrey Central Station.

      "Light rail would break Surrey away from the region," McCallum alleged. "That's not what Surrey people want. They want to be part of the region."