Diesel light-rail to Chilliwack – What will it cost?

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One Canadian transit line, seldom mentioned by TransLink or the Minister for Transportation is Ottawa’s 8 km. diesel LRT line, called the O-Train. The five-station route connects to Ottawa’s existing east-west bus Transitway system with simple stations at its north and south ends. Because it uses an existing rail line, it cost only about $4 million per kilometer to set up this 8km line, including the cost of track upgrades, signaling, simple stations, and three Bombardier Talent diesel light rail vehicles. The current cost of Ottawa’s lack lustre busways is about $15 million per km. to build, which is about $10 million per km. more than tramway construction in Helsinki. Please see Trams on the cheap – Part 2.

Using the figure of $4 million per km. to install, a 90 km. a basic Vancouver to Chilliwack diesel LRT service could cost in the neighbourhood of about $450 million (90 km. x $4 million + 25% contingency), including about 30 diesel light rail vehicles.

The same $450 million would buy just a little more than 4 km. of SkyTrain on the proposed Surrey or Evergreen line SkyTrain extensions. This LRT/light-metro cost comparison makes the SkyTrain lobby within the provincial Transportation Ministry and TransLink very nervous, for it exposes the SkyTrain/light-metro planning only policy for regional ‘rail’ transportation policy a sham, being supported by inaccurate assumptions and manipulated analysis.

The return of the interurban is a viable proposition for the Fraser Valley and its budget could easily fit in the provincial Liberal Party’s $14 billion regional transportation plans.

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