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Nov 9,2005

Wilson, Kingsbury spar over transit

By Leneen Robb - Staff Reporter

The two frontrunners in the closely contested Coquitlam mayoral race - Mayor Jon Kingsbury and Coun. Maxine Wilson - couldn't resist taking shots at each other Monday when the topic of rapid transit came up at a council meeting.

Kingsbury gave a brief update on the planned light rapid transit line for Coquitlam, informing council that several consultants have been selected for the project. He also said there are concerns about the capacity of St. Johns Street to contain both directions of the line.

"The issue was raised about the right-of-way on St. Johns, whether it would be big enough or not," he said of a recent discussion with stakeholders, adding that questions have been asked about whether "they'd have to put one way up on that street and one way down on the other street. So they've hired somebody to look into that."

The fireworks started when Wilson raised concerns over the funding of the project. She said TransLink only agreed to build the line if the cost does not exceed $800 million.

"That's a real limit, considering what's happening to every other TransLink capital project," she said. "They're all going over budget. I have real concerns it's not going to happen."

Wilson also said she heard a month ago that only $570 million of the $800 million promised for the line is secured, meaning the project may come up short.

But Kingsbury said the remainder of the funds will come from TransLink, and will be obtained by taking $100 million a year from the road network and by extending the amortization period.

"That's old news and you keep bringing it up and bringing it up and the Chicken Little syndrome is 'I don't think it's going to be built,'" he said. "Well, that's fine, you can take that attitude. I find that co-operating and working with other levels of government pays a lot more."

Kingsbury also dismissed Wilson's concerns that an over budget Richmond-Airport-Vancouver (RAV) line would derail rapid transit to the Tri-Cities.

"If the prices go up on that, too bad," he said, adding that private contractors would take the hit, not taxpayers.

"So all this Chicken Little stuff about, 'Oh my gosh, they're going over budget' - the contractors are going to have to deal with it. That's why the deal was put together, that's why sometimes private partnerships and working with industry work so well, instead of trying to do it yourself."

Then he took a shot at the rest of council, saying "It's easy to criticize, but I didn't see you guys out here at any one of these presentations that we're doing. As a matter of fact, did you even know there was one up at Poirier or one over at Douglas (College)? Did you get involved, council members?"

He said about 30 meetings have taken place so far on the topic of the proposed line, and that the only people complaining about LRT "are the guys that still want the Cadillac.

"Well, the Cadillac isn't going to happen because we're not going to get another private partnership the way we did for the Vancouver-Richmond line because nobody's going to buy into that anymore," he said.

"There's not enough density out here, there's not enough ridership to pay for it, this is going to be a subsidized line and we're hoping the provincial government comes through with their money and maybe a little more if we co-operate with them ... I think we're going to have it, it's going to be built as we're building a big city and everything is going to tie in according to plan and I think it's going to come off really well."

He added that he "wouldn't give you two cents" for a SkyTrain-style system.

Coun Fin Donnelly also joined the debate.

In his view, SkyTrain and LRT are "very comparable," but he expressed concern that TransLink and Coquitlam "have not consulted with the community on this decision - we have not got buy-in from the community on this.

"And I think we're right now behind the eight ball and we'll have a lot of work to do to work with the community if we're going to make a difference ... there's a lot of unhappy people out there - they do not know what the benefits of LRT are, compared to SkyTrain."

The proposed LRT line is slated to be built by 2009.

A video with more details is available for viewing on TransLink's website, at

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