Surrey Mayor Linda Hepner and Translink CEO Kevin Desmond at a Surrey Board of Trade luncheon on Wednesday at Eaglequest Golf Course. (Photo: Tom Zytaruk).

Surrey LRT could be running by 2024

Meantime, 56 new SkyTrain cars have been ordered

SURREY — Fifty-six new SkyTrain cars, double-decker buses and light rail transit were on the menu as Surrey Mayor Linda Hepner and TransLink CEO Kevin Desmond spoke this week at a business luncheon held by the Surrey Board of Trade.

They set the table where rapid transit is concerned in Surrey and elsewhere south of the Fraser River.

By 2041 another 300,000 people will call Surrey home. More than half a million now live in Surrey, B.C.’s second largest city.

“When it comes to transportation, it is no secret Surrey and South of the Fraser have been left behind,” Hepner said, noting the last new investment in rapid transit for Surrey was in the 1990s. “To say our time has come for a high-quality rapid transit solution for south of the Fraser is a vast understatement.”

The proposed South of Fraser Rapid Transit network features 27 kilometres of light rail transit, or LRT. There are two phases, with the first embracing Newton and Guildford LRT, and phase two, a Surrey-Langley line.

Desmond told the business audience that “If all goes well, the light rail project ought to be up and running by 2024.”

READ ALSO: Early LRT work begins in Surrey

READ ALSO: Surrey LRT on faster track as province matches $2.2B federal transit pledge

READ ALSO: TransLink disputes claims LRT is dangerous for roadways

Phase one features 11 stops along 10.5 kilometres of street-level track connecting Guildford, Surrey Central and Newton. The trains will be driver-operated.

Hepner said LRT “will be the catalyst that will transform our city into an urban centre of business and commerce” and place 250,000 people within five minutes of accessing rapid transit. Expanding SkyTrain into Surrey would cost $950 million more than LRT to meet Surrey’s needs and cost 40 per cent more in operation and maintenance costs, Hepner claimed.

“I just can’t wait for the shovels to hit the ground,” she said. “We’re almost there.”

Desmond said 56 new cars have been ordered for the SkyTrain system from bombardier, equivalent to about eight sets of trains. “We’re hoping between the end of next year and into 2019 they’ll be in place.”

He said the aim is to move to five-car trains from four-car trains. “We’re very, very keen to get that capacity as quickly as possible,” he said.

SkyTrain ridership is “surging,” up 12 per cent this year compared to this time last year, Desmond said. “Clearly there’s something going on in our region.”

Plans are in the works for bus riders, too.

“In around the November period, we’re bringing up a couple of double-decker buses, which have 80 seats,” Desmond said.

“We’ve got to find ways to take care of our bus passengers.”

TransLink’s CEO also spoke about the Pattullo Bridge.

“We’ve been talking about retiring this old war horse for a long time,” he said. “We need to get it done. We need to move forward. It’s 80 years old. It’s frankly 30 years past its useful life.

“Obviously we’re keeping it together, more than just band-aids and duct tape, but it’s sort getting close to that, and we’re extremely anxious to get a new bridge.”

Desmond said the plan is to replace the Pattullo with a four-lane bridge that will handle 10 per cent more capacity and he’s optimistic there will soon be a deal with the provincial government on funding. The aim is to have it built by about 2023.

Expo Line 30 years old, improvement at stations underway.

Hepner was asked if the LRT project will be expanded to South Surrey, Cloverdale and Langley?

She replied the Mayor’s Council is looking at that. “All of those would be under consideration.”

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