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Dec 16,2005

Trustees raise safety concerns over LRT line

By Simone Blais - Staff Reporter

School trustees remain skeptical about how safe the Evergreen Line - the proposed LRT line that will travel down St. Johns Street in Port Moody - will be for children walking to school.

School District 43's board had asked TransLink officials to make a presentation during Tuesday night's meeting, and give details as to where stops are projected to be located in relation to local schools.

Michelle Blake, TransLink deputy project director, presented a video and outlined the features of the Evergreen Line - which would see a tunnel entrance built on Clarke Street to the west of the St. Johns Street and Barnet Highway intersection, allowing the line to proceed down St. Johns towards Barnet Highway.

The proposed route would pass directly by both Moody middle and elementary schools (located at Buller and Moody streets, respectively), as well as Albert Street, which is the main road leading Port Moody Secondary.

Blake stressed to trustees that, as 28 feet of roadway will be required to accommodate the two train paths and four lanes of traffic, some landscaping and sidewalk locations will have to be moved during construction.

Chair Melissa Hyndes said she was concerned about children's safety, given the proximity of the trains and traffic to schools.

"My concern is that you're going to put this down the middle of the road and push traffic that much closer to the schools which, fence or no fence, poses a safety risk for me," she said.

Hyndes asked Blake whether TransLink had begun studying traffic in the area, especially around the elementary and middle school entrances, to determine how heavy it is - and Blake said those studies are just beginning.

Trustee Debra Burton expressed concern over the light-rail technology's capability for stopping.

"My concern is not so much the controlled crossings, but it's that kids will be kids" and could dart into the road, she said.

"Stopping in time is not going to be feasible for a train that takes two to three city blocks to come to a stop."

Blake said TransLink officials would be willing to discuss the project with principals and parents so that, during construction, the project could include "fences near parks to prevent balls flying into traffic."

Trustee Keith Watkins said the rapid transit project will benefit developers and builders as opposed to children walking to school.

"They keep saying that this is going to benefit the community in the future, but our responsibility is with our school children today," Watkins said.

"This system doesn't seem as though it's going to be a great benefit to them."

Trustee Diane Sowden said she is concerned about rapid transit's relationship to increased rates of crime in areas close to stations.

"Results have proven that crime does go up around stations," she said.

"I'm very concerned about having secondary school students around light rail."

Trustee Brian Robinson said he still favours SkyTrain technology over the light-rail alternative.

"When it comes to the two, I'm a fan of SkyTrain over light rail," Robinson said, adding that the overhead technology would solve not only pedestrian safety issues, but also those of perceived inequity between Lower Mainland regions.

"If light rail was good enough for the Tri-Cities, then it should be good enough for the RAV Line.

"I think this is just another example of how the northeast sector is sitting in second best."

Blake said TransLink will return to the board after more consultation sessions are scheduled in the new year.

published on 12/16/2005

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