Vancouver’s original SkyTrain line — Expo Line — took another step toward making a proposed extension happen when the Mayor’s Council supported a business case to extend the light rapid transit system from Surrey to Langley as part of a 10-mile extension.
The plan, currently expected to cost $3.13 billion (CAN), includes elevated track and eight stations as the rail transit moves east.
While the Mayor’s Council supported the project, it wasn’t without question marks, especially when it comes to funding. Only $1.63 billion (CAN) has been allocated for the project, which cuts the extension into two phases, the first a 4.3-mile extension along Fraser Highway with four stations. The additional funding needed to complete the project is what would take it to Langley.
The updated plan also reverses course on earlier proposals to transition extensions to light rail, instead keeping the system in line with the nearby SkyTrain rail. In all, SkyTrain has three lines — Expo, Millennium and Canada — with the Expo and Millennium lines using fully automated Bombardier trains and Canada Line, which doesn’t share track with the other two lines, using a Rotem-built train.
Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum says the rapid transit expansion in the area is long overdue. “The switch in technology from light rail to SkyTrain is no easy feat,” he says in a statement, “but this is undoubtedly the right thing to do not only for Surrey, but for the region as a whole.”
TransLink, the transportation authority that oversees SkyTrain, expects construction can begin in 2022 and that service will operate in 2025. The project is expected to add 55 SkyTrain vehicles, additional bus exchanges, park-and-ride spaces and an operations and maintenance center.
The Expo line was the original SkyTrain line, first simply dubbed SkyTrain when it was built in 1985 ahead of Expo 86. A 1990 bridge across the Fraser River helped extend the line and the final eastward addition to the Expo line came in 1994. Expo Line now has 24 stations.
SkyTrain’s Millennium Line — also an east-west line, but with a more northernly route than the Expo Line — opened in 2002, which necessitated naming the original SkyTrain the Expo Line. The Millennium Line’s most recent extension opened in 2016. Canada Line, which operates south of Vancouver to Richmond and Vancouver International Airport, opened in 2009 ahead of the Winter Olympics in 2010.
SkyTrain is already planning a 3.5-mile, six-station addition to Millennium Line that will include both elevated and underground rail to open in 2025. This westward extension includes tunneling, but doesn’t currently extend all the way west to the University of British Columbia as originally planned.
Follow Tim Newcomb on Twitter at @tdnewcomb.