BY JENNIFER SALTMAN
On Tuesday, Coquitlam Mayor Richard Stewart had the opportunity to do something he’s been waiting to do for decades — ride the SkyTrain into the centre of his city.
“This is an exhilarating day,” Stewart said. “We’ve been waiting for the opening of SkyTrain to Coquitlam Centre for all of my adult life. It’s been 25, 30 years in the making and we’re just ecstatic.”
Stewart was among a small group of politicians and reporters who rode the new Evergreen Line Tuesday from Burquitlam station through Port Moody to the terminus at Lafarge Lake. Lougheed Town Centre station, the line’s first stop, was not included in the tour. The $1.43-billion, 11-kilometre line is expected to start running sometime before Christmas — a specific start date has not been revealed.
The ride began with a brief run above North Road before the train dipped underground for a two-kilometre trip through a tunnel.
Since construction began in 2013 there has been cause for several delays, including four sinkholes that appeared while the tunnel was being bored between Coquitlam and Port Moody.
Minister responsible for TransLink Peter Fassbender said constructing the tunnel was the project’s biggest challenge.
“Going through that tunnel you can see what a massive project that was,” he said. “At the end of the day, I know people are going to forget that we were delayed in the opening because of the tunnelling, but they’re going to be absolutely thrilled when they get on these cars and are able to travel throughout the entire region.”
Cost overruns for the tunnel problems and others that occurred during construction will be picked up by SNC-Lavalin, which led the consortium that built the line and has a fixed-price contract with the province, Fassbender said.
After exiting the tunnel just east of Barnet Highway, the train travelled at grade through Port Moody toward Coquitlam Centre station. From there, it became elevated for the last two stations: Lincoln and Lafarge Lake-Douglas.
“I thought it was fabulous — amazing actually,” Fassbender said while standing on the platform at the final station, with Douglas College and Town Centre Park in the distance.
“I thought it was fantastic to actually travel along something that we watched come out of the ground, and to see the development.
Politicians said the train will provide opportunities for growth in the region, promote healthier lifestyles by getting people out of their cars and make it easier for residents to get to Vancouver because they no longer have to rely on a bus.
The trip from Lafarge Lake-Douglas to Lougheed Town Centre takes 15 minutes. Going to Commercial-Broadway will take 30 minutes, and the ride to Waterfront will take 40 to 45 minutes. The line is expected to carry 70,000 passengers per day by 2021.
“It’s thrilling to ride this brand-new system,” remarked Coquitlam-Port Coquitlam MP Ron McKinnon. “It’s fresh, it’s out of the box, it runs smoothy, it’s fast, it’s efficient. It’s going to make a great change for our community.”
Construction is expected to be completed in the next couple of weeks, at which point TransLink will take control of the system for final operational testing. When that’s done, an opening date will be set.
“We’re looking forward to it,” said Stewart. “It’s going to be a great Christmas present.”