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July 2,2010 The Now News

Burnaby council is on track with plans for the Evergreen Line, and is pushing the provincial government to fund current TransLink shortfalls.

Politicians in the Tri-Cities have been pushing for years to get funding for the Evergreen Line. Monday, Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan, also an outspoken advocate for rapid transit in the northeast sector, called the current funding situation "shameful."

The province has to secure funding if the project is ever going to be completed, Corrigan said in an interview before Monday's Burnaby city council meeting.

"I think it's shameful," he said. "It's not possible to build it with TransLink's budget."

Burnaby city council is continuing to press the province to secure funding for the line. Council discussed the issue at Monday's meeting, just days after TransLink presented its draft 2011 Base Plan and Outlook report to Metro Vancouver. The report indicates that funding will not be available for major expansions, including the Evergreen Line, between 2011 and 2013.

The line is expected to cost $1.4 billion, according to a 2009 news release from the province. The federal government would contribute $417 million, the provincial government would contribute $410 million, project partners would contribute $173 million and TransLink would contribute $400 million.

However, TransLink's budget only allows it to maintain the current system, not fund major projects. Also, the province has not secured additional project partners to cover the $173 million, according to a report prepared by Burnaby city staff.

Corrigan suggested the government had only agreed to install the Evergreen Line, set to run from Lougheed Town Centre to Coquitlam Town Centre, to get municipal governments in the northeast part of the Lower Mainland to back the Millennium Line project. In 2000, the province decided to build the Millennium Line, but omitted the proposed Evergreen Line from project plans.

The province's decision to go with a SkyTrain system, instead of one using advanced light rail technology (ALRT), increased the costs exponentially, Corrigan said, adding the decision was made despite studies recommending an ALRT system.

"I think that the province has interfered so drastically in the abilities of local government, in terms of transportation," Corrigan said.

The project includes fewer stations than originally proposed, and Burnaby council is pressing to have the optional Cameron Station included, since there are physical requirements that would make it impossible to add it to the system at a later stage.

The six primary stations are Lougheed Town Centre, Burquitlam Plaza, the Port Moody West Coast Express station, the Coquitlam West Coast Express station and a station at Coquitlam City Hall, with access to Douglas College. There were four additional spots being considered for two optional stations: Cameron in Burnaby, Queens Street in Port Moody and Falcon Drive and Lincoln Avenue in Coquitlam.

Corrigan spoke out against the "massive deletion of stations," saying Burnaby would continue to press to have Cameron added to the initial project. City staff prepared the report, requesting that the government secure funding for the project, go with an ALRT system instead of SkyTrain and add Cameron to the plans.

Corrigan said it looks as if construction won't begin before 2013, adding that it would take "a miracle" to get it done at this point.

The preliminary project schedule estimated construction would begin in the fourth quarter of 2010, to be completed by the third quarter of 2014. However, the project isn't completely off the books until 2013, according to TransLink spokesman Ken Hardie.

"There is nothing in our plan for 2011 currently," Hardie said, adding that that could change if funding becomes available. It is up to the province to decide when to begin, he added, pointing out that the province is in charge of the project and its timeline.

Shirley Bond, B.C.'s minister of transportation and infrastructure, was not available for comment by press time.

The government is conducting public consultations in advance of the environmental assessment certificate application for the project. According to the Burnaby city staff report, the project is already behind schedule, as the environmental certificate was to be issued by the third quarter of 2010. As the environmental assessment office usually conducts a 180-day public review, followed by a 45-day ministerial review, it looks as though the project is about six months behind.

- A public open house is set for Tuesday, July 6 at Coquitlam City Hall, another at Cameron Recreation Centre in Burnaby on Wednesday, July 7, and a final one in Port Moody, at the Inlet Theatre and Galleria, on Thursday, July 8. All three open houses are set to run from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m.

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