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Mar 31,2006

Moody council will make one-day trip to check out LRT

By Angela MacKenzie - Staff Reporter

Port Moody council is going ahead with plans to visit Portland, Ore. to take a first-hand look at the impact of a light-rail transit system on a city, but has yet to settle on a date for the road trip.

Council voted 4-2 in favour of a one-day trip to the U.S. city at a maximum cost of $3,500 with a request for funding from TransLink.

Couns. Mike Clay and Shannon Watkins voted against going to Portland.

"I can't support this at this point, because my concern around this is how it's going to integrate into our community and not into somebody else's, and the expense and the time to get very little time down there. It just doesn't seem relevant," Clay said.

Watkins agreed with Clay and repeated her concerns over how valuable the trip would be since the LRT system here will connect to a SkyTrain system, unlike in Portland.

She said the money spent on the trip could be used elsewhere.

"My concerns are around the fact that I have a feeling that a lot of the questions that we have might not to be answered in the short time that we would be there," she said.

Mayor Joe Trasolini, who has already visited Portland, described his trip as invaluable.

"I went there last year with Coquitlam council. Prior to leaving, Coquitlam council was very divided as to the choice of LRT or not LRT," Trasolini said. "After the meeting, they were united because they saw the results of the technology, they rode on the vehicles, they spoke with the business owners along the way, they saw complete neighbourhoods that were run-down ghettos turn into vibrant business centres.

"They realized the stations were not SkyTrain stations, but were very open, extended bus stops. A lot of the questions that I hear being asked on a daily basis can be answered with a trip, but at the same time, of course, there has to be desire, and if the wish of this council is that we don't go, then this is the time to make a decision."

Coun. Meghan Lahti, who first brought forward the idea of the trip, said spending $3,500 to find out more information on such a major project that will affect the future of the community is not too much money.

"This is an opportunity to get more information and whenever we have an opportunity to get more information on an issue that is of such incredible importance to this municipality we really have a responsibility to endeavor to get that information," Lahti said. "So, no, we may not get all the answers and, in fact, we may not get the answers we want but I think it is incumbent upon us to take every opportunity that comes our way to explore what's going on down there and to prepare us for what's coming our way."

Later in the evening, a notice of motion put forward by Clay that council host a town hall-style meeting on the LRT line, to follow the completion of TransLink's first round of public consultation, failed to pass with councillors Lahti, Bob Elliott and the mayor opposed.

Trasolini said such a meeting would likely spark unproductive and negative input and also possibly create a false perception that the city had the power to stop the LRT line from coming through the city.

Trasolini said a town hall-style meeting hosted by TransLink would be more beneficial.

Lahti agreed, saying a city-hosted meeting would set up false expectations. Lahti said council's preferred rapid transit route remains up Lougheed Highway.

"We need to make sure that we're not communicating that we have power to overturn that decision - we don't."

published on 03/31/2006

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