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Dec 30,2009 Tri City News

If all the stories written in 2004 about rapid transit to Coquitlam were laid end to end they might just stretch the length of the 11-kim route from Burnaby to Coquitlam.

Few projects generated as much public interest, letters to the editor and heated argument as the long-promised Evergreen Line.

In 2004, the Burnaby-to-Coquitlam rapid transit project didn’t have a name. It was just an idea in the minds of politicians and bureaucrats. (Later it became the butt of jokes. Neverbuilt Line anyone?) because of the way it sputtered and stalled like a tired, old jitney.

In later years, people worried about what route it should take: northeast through Port Moody or southwest through Coquitlam. But in 2004 the talk was about technology and what would be best to transport people from Coquitlam’s burgeoning town centre to Burnaby’s Millennium Line.

That year the Canada Line pushed rapid transit to Coquitlam to the back of the line and politicians were looking for ways to resurrect the project.

SkyTrain — preferred by most people, including a majority of Coquitlam councillors — was ruled out as too expensive while rubber-wheeled guided light transit and rapid bus alternatives proposed by TransLink were considered inefficient. A heavy duty diesel train was eliminated as well early in the proceedings.

For Port Moody Mayor Joe Trasolini and Jon Kingsbury, Coquitlam’s mayor at the time, at-grade light rail running along St. Johns Street was the region’s best bet.

Trasolini refused to accept SkyTrain running through the city after a referendum opposed the idea and Kingsbury was looking for a deal that would bring rapid transit to the northeast.

As Tri-City News journalist Janis Warren reported at the time: “Mayor Jon Kingsbury told his council colleagues Monday the estimated $1 billion price-tag, the lack of density in the Tri-Cities and Port Moody’s refusal to accept SkyTrain tracks are why the Tri-Cities will never see SkyTrain come to the area.”

Coquitlam council gave him tepid support and so with the city’s mayors in favour of light rail, including Port Coquitlam, TransLink — the region’s transportation authority made up of city mayors — approved light rail to Coquitlam.

The year ended with TransLink promising to set up a project office and Coquitlam backing down from its support for light rail.

Diane Thorne, who was running for the NDP nomination at the time and who is now Coquitlam-Maillardville MLA, wanted the province to approve the more expensive SkyTrain with money from a $2 billion surplus, but Kingsbury refused to take it to TransLink. He called SkyTrain a “crappy” and “ugly” system too big for the city’s population.

But his fellow councillors disagreed with him.

Said then-Coun. Bill LeClair:

“I think it’s worth a shot.”

Other transportation stories broke that year. The Coast Meridian Overpass got off to a slow start with public consultations — and acrimony — and was supposed to cost $70 million and ended up costing $135.4 million. When it opens next year it will create a much-needed link between north and south PoCo.

And the $15-million David Avenue extension was approved by TrasnLink and built, opening up Burke Mountain to development.

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