TransLink tight-lipped on new estimates for big-ticket rapid transit plans

Weak dollar among reasons for projected cost increases for Broadway subway and Surrey LRT, chief financial officer says
Costs for the light rail transit project to help relieve chronic traffic congestion on major Surrey arterial roads are rising | Photo: Rob Kruyt

Cost estimates for the proposed Broadway subway and Surrey light-rail transit (LRT) projects are going up, but TransLink’s chief financial officer wouldn’t say how high.

The Mayors’ Council’s 2014 funding plan, rejected last spring by voters, estimated the Broadway subway and Surrey LRT would cost $1.98 billion and $2.14 billion, respectively.

Cathy McLay said after the March 30 board meeting that studies “to make sure the costing is accurate and the technology is correct” have been delayed by a full quarter to June 30.

“When we did the original study, we did it up to 50% accuracy; now we’re trying to get it up to 85% accuracy,” McLay told reporters at the meeting. “When we first did those studies, our dollar was at parity [with the U.S. dollar]; it is not there today. Those have a dramatic impact on what the cost is going to be. We know that those studies require us to acquire land. The land value is not anywhere close to what it was back then. Stay tuned; we’ll let you know as they are finalized.”

Pressed further for preliminary cost estimates given by contracted experts to TransLink senior management and directors, McLay said: “Those numbers keep moving around. If I tell you one number, three hours from now it will be a different number.”

The leader of the No campaign in the 2015 plebiscite said TransLink’s evasiveness on the cost question for its two major expansion projects is typical.

“Originally they said they would have better cost estimates before the plebiscite started. Then they said it would be before plebiscite voting ended. Then the summer after the plebiscite,” said Jordan Bateman of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation. “It reinforces for No voters that they did the right thing. Giving [TransLink] a blank chequebook when they can’t tell you how much these projects are going to cost? That would’ve been a dangerous thing.”

Bateman added that McLay’s mention of technology could be cause to worry for Surrey. Peter Fassbender, the BC Liberal minister overseeing TransLink, has publicly touted a future SkyTrain line on the proposed Fraser Highway light-rail route, only to backtrack on his statements and say that he meant light rail.

Bateman also pointed to the $1.43 billion Evergreen Line SkyTrain extension being originally planned as a light-rail system. That changed when the 2008 business case recommended SkyTrain, despite higher capital costs.

The Evergreen Line was supposed to open in summer 2016 but has been delayed to early 2017.

Business in Vancouver has learned that the provincial government is in mediation with builder SNC-Lavalin (TSX:SNC)  to resolve construction claims. In quarterly financials released last August, the scandal-plagued Montreal company announced a $43 million loss in its infrastructure division, due in part to major delays because of sinkholes in the Evergreen Line tunnel.

Steer Davies Gleave and Hatch Mott MacDonald were hired on a $1.56 million conceptual design and cost estimate study for the Surrey proposal in early 2015. They subcontracted Stantec (TSX:STN), Via Architecture, Anthony Steadman and Associates and the Stewart Group. Stantec is leading the $1.4 million study on the Broadway proposal with subcontractors Jacobs Associates, Golder Associates, Allen Parker Consulting, Site Economics, Westco Consulting, Edward LeFlufy Urban Design & Architecture, Locke & Locke, Dessau, BTY Group and Anthony Steadman and Associates.

No funding for either project was included in the federal budget. The requests for proposals for the engineering, planning and business case technical studies said the original deadline for the research was summer 2015. TransLink had been targeting a March 2016 deadline to apply for federal funding. The federal budget included no capital funding, but it did pledge to increase federal funding from one-third to one-half of major transit projects. •

comments powered by Disqus

More from Transportation

Port authority acquires three Lower Mainland industrial properties

Read Article

Double-decker buses, other capacity boosts coming to TransLink

CEO also says that TransLink is on-track for getting procurements next year for West Broadway SkyTrain extension, Surrey LRT projects

Read Article

BIV on Global BC October 17, 2017: Bombardier sells CSeries majority stake; ...

Tyler Orton discusses Bombardier selling a majority stake in CSeries program. Plus: Ottawa to cut small business tax to 9% by 2019

Read Article

Your Uber is not here: NDP puts ride-hailing decision on hold in ...

Read Article

Icelandair launches year-round non-stop flights out of Vancouver

Airline’s added flights help Vancouver International Airport’s aim for record passenger count in 2017

Read Article

Subscribe to our mailing lists

You may withdraw your consent at any time.

* indicates required

Newsletters

* You can modify your newsletter subscriptions at the bottom of any newsletter you receive.
Business in Vancouver Media Group
303 West 5th Avenue, Vancouver, British Columbia
V5Y 1J6 · Canada
604-688-2398
×