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‘Only about esthetics’: Burnaby delays $6.3M SkyTrain ‘accent’ lighting project

A Burnaby politician says millions of dollars shouldn't be spent just to make things prettier.
skytrain lights accent pillars
Once complete, a total of 178 guideway pillars will feature new lighting that shifts between colours along the nearly five-kilometre stretch of BC Parkway from Patterson SkyTrain Station to the Edmonds SkyTrain Station.

A plan to spend an additional $6.3 million to add “accent lighting” along SkyTrain’s Expo line in Burnaby is now on hold.

Burnaby council voted to send the project back to staff over concerns it was “only about esthetics” and didn’t make walking or cycling along the SkyTrain line any safer, according to Coun. Alison Gu.

The city has already spend more than $3 million on the $9.8 million project, which envisions adding colourful lights that would shine on the SkyTrain columns all along the line, from the Patterson area to Edmonds.

Council was being asked to approve $6.3 million to complete the project, but Gu, who travels by bike, said the project has failed to make cycling any safer. Gu detailed recently riding along the section that has already been completed in the Metrotown area.

“I was disappointed at how it ended up,” said Gu. “I don’t think it’s achieved the primary goals of safety.

Gu said the lighting shouldn’t just be about making the area prettier, adding that making cycling safer at night through lighting has been shown to encourage more women to cycle.

“We need to make investments to protect cyclists,” Gu said.

The project is similar to the one completed by Coquitlam for the Evergreen line, with the large columns changing colours and designs up and down North Road on the Burquitlam border.

The first phases cost $3.4 million, starting with lighting on 12 columns from Metrotown Skytrain station to Willingdon Avenue by December 2021.

A staff member told council that more effort could be made to direct lights towards the ground by working with the contractor who has completed the first phases of work. The big issue, council was told, is how this delay would impact ordering equipment as supply chain “madness” has affected many city projects.

Mayor Mike Hurley said he was OK with sending the project back to staff, as long as the delay would only be a few weeks and not make the budget rise.

“I don’t want this to go up by 40%,” Hurley said.

Staff also referenced a different project working with TransLink to improve safety along the Expo Line. Coun. Dan Johnston says better lighting is definitely needed in the Royal Oak area.

Follow Chris Campbell on Twitter @shinebox44.