The province has confirmed that construction on the Broadway subway project, which will extend an existing SkyTrain line from East Vancouver to the Arbutus neighbourhood, is set to go ahead this fall as hoped despite the pandemic.
B.C. Premier John Horgan said Thursday construction will begin within months, with the goal of having the new line in service by 2025.
The start date and completion deadline were announced more than a year ago. Thursday's announcement confirms the project will proceed despite COVID-19.
"We are starting on the Broadway subway. This is just totally amazing ... this is actually now rolling out. It's such a great thing and I'm so excited about it," said Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart.
The project will extend the Millennium Line by 5.7 kilometres from VCC-Clark Station to the intersection of Broadway and Arbutus Street on the city's West Side, with six new stations along the way.
Horgan said Thursday the $1.73-billion contract to design and build the line has been awarded to the Broadway Subway Project Corp., an Acciona-Ghella joint venture.
The president of the B.C. Rapid Transit Company, Michel Ladrak, said the new SkyTrain line will alleviate pressure on the existing 99B bus line.
He said the Broadway extension will be able to carry more than three times the number of passengers than the bus, which is already the busiest bus route in Canada and the United States with 57,000 boardings a day.
Stewart said it will mean an estimated 14 million fewer cars per year on the road by 2030.
Horgan said the project will also help the province rebound from the economic blow of the COVID-19 pandemic.
"Major infrastructure projects like the Broadway subway line are key to our economic recovery,'' he said.
No extension to UBC yet
Transportation Minister Claire Trevena said there are no immediate plans to extend the new line beyond Arbutus Street to UBC's Point Grey campus.
The university, the City of Vancouver and a local First Nations development group have all been pushing for that to happen as soon as possible.
Last February, the Metro Vancouver Mayors' Council on Regional Transportation voted in favour of extending the line all the way.
Trevena, speaking Friday on CBC's The Early Edition, said the federal government is currently acting on the business plan the council presented for the extension to Arbutus and will consider the campus extension when that plan is presented.
"Whether it is a gondola up to SFU, or taking the SkyTrain out to UBC, we will look at it very seriously," said Trevena.
The minister said the intent now is to relieve congestion along the Broadway corridor, which is currently serviced by the 99B bus line, one of the busiest bus lines in North America.
According to Trevena, all traffic lanes along the corridor will remain open while construction of the new subway line is underway.
To hear the complete interview with Minister Claire Trevena on The Early Edition, tap here.