TransLink ready to give Sur­rey ser­vice it wants

The Province - - NEWS - JEN­NIFER SALTMAN jen­salt­man@post­

TransLink’s CEO said if Sur­rey pre­vails with its plan to build SkyTrain in­stead of light rail, the tran­sit au­thor­ity will do its best to de­liver rapid tran­sit as soon as pos­si­ble.

“What I want to say to the peo­ple of Sur­rey is TransLink is go­ing to be here for you, what­ever our pol­icy-mak­ers de­cide,” Kevin Des­mond said at a Greater Van­cou­ver Board of Trade event Thurs­day.

This week, Sur­rey coun­cil passed a mo­tion to stop the $1.65-bil­lion Sur­rey-New­ton-Guild­ford at-grade ligh­trail line and start work on a SkyTrain line from King Ge­orge sta­tion to Lan­g­ley City. Can­celling the light-rail project was a cam­paign prom­ise of Mayor Doug McCal­lum’s Safe Sur­rey Coali­tion.

City of Sur­rey staff have al­ready shifted their fo­cus to SkyTrain and TransLink has stopped its work on light rail.

“One way or the other, we’re go­ing to build rail in Sur­rey at TransLink and we’re go­ing to do it as ef­fec­tively and as quickly as is prac­ti­cal,” Des­mond said.

Des­mond said TransLink is await­ing di­rec­tion from the May­ors’ Coun­cil and the TransLink board of di­rec­tors. At the May­ors’ Coun­cil meet­ing Nov. 15, McCal­lum plans to seek a change in the word­ing in the 10-year re­gional plan, re­mov­ing ref­er­ences to light rail and re­plac­ing them with SkyTrain.

The mu­nic­i­pal elec­tion re­sulted in a huge turnover of may­ors — 16 new may­ors and a new Elec­toral Area A di­rec­tor — which means the 23-mem­ber May­ors’ Coun­cil will be mostly new faces.

Des­mond said the progress and trans­porta­tion in­vest­ment made the last few years couldn’t have hap­pened with­out con­sen­sus among elected of­fi­cials, so many new mem­bers will pose a chal­lenge.

“As far as I know, it hasn’t had that type of turnover of may­ors in this re­gion ei­ther for­ever or in a very long time,” Des­mond said. “We want to bring ev­ery­body back and hope­fully get ev­ery­body still on the same page with the may­ors’ plan go­ing for­ward.”

Des­mond said plan­ning and prepa­ra­tion was done for light rail — to the tune of about $70 mil­lion be­tween TransLink and the city — be­cause it’s the project the City of Sur­rey wanted. It was in the 10-year re­gional trans­porta­tion plan drafted in 2014 and adopted in 2015.

“The light-rail project could have done a lot of good things for Sur­rey. They had a vi­sion in place for years as a de­sire for the City of Sur­rey, and it be­came pol­icy with TransLink,” Des­mond said. “It was a com­mu­nity-shap­ing project that maybe wasn’t un­der­stood well.”

How­ever, he also called SkyTrain “a won­der­ful as­set.”

When asked if fed­eral and pro­vin­cial fund­ing com­mit­ted to the light-rail project can be trans­ferred to SkyTrain, Des­mond said the sig­nals they seem to be get­ting are “if this re­gion wants to move in a dif­fer­ent di­rec­tion, then se­nior lev­els of govern­ment will sup­port this re­gion mov­ing in a dif­fer­ent di­rec­tion.”

Des­mond said TransLink is com­mit­ted to de­liv­er­ing the 27 km of rapid tran­sit out­lined for Sur­rey in the 10-year plan, whether it’s light rail, SkyTrain or bus rapid tran­sit.


CEO Kevin Des­mond said Thurs­day that if Sur­rey wants SkyTrain ser­vice in­stead of light rail, TransLink is pre­pared to work to make it hap­pen.

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