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July 16,2010

The start of the much-delayed Evergreen rapid transit line, could be delayed once again, because TransLink says it's running out of money.

Spokesman Ken Hardie said TransLink is now facing a $450 million annual deficit with no solution in sight, and it won't have the money to build the 11-kilometre rapid transit line linking Lougheed Town Centre in Burnaby to the Coquitlam Town Centre.

"We do not have the money to build the Evergreen Line," said Hardie on Wednesday. "And in fact, unless we find new revenue, starting probably in 2010, 2011, we are going to have to start cutting transit service."

The regional transit authority had committed to pay $400 million of the line's $1.4 billion estimated price tag, with the federal and provincial government also chipping in to cover the cost.

TransLink is expected to make a final decision on the fate of the line by October, but Coquitlam Mayor Richard Stewart says the line must go ahead.

"Well, we can't hope to keep transit going unless we continue to expand the rapid transit, the rail transit portion of it, and this is the only place that's next," he said.

New taxes needed: mayor

The mayor would like the provincial government, which controls TransLink, to give the transit authority more options for generating revenue.

"Perhaps a fuel tax, perhaps there's a carbon tax, perhaps there is some way to work this out to allow us the tools or find the existing tools and give us the cash," said Stewart.

Previously, TransLink has considered several new taxes on Metro Vancouver residents to raise revenue, including parking taxes and vehicle levies, but all have met a great deal of public resistance.

Plans for the Evergreen Line have been awaiting funding since it was first announced about 20 years ago. Construction was finally expected to start in 2010 after the federal government committed $350 million to the project in February.

The province had also committed $400 million, but even with TransLink's previous $400 million commitment, the project was still almost $173 million short of its expected cost of $1.4 billion.

That gap that was supposed to be made up by project partners, including a possible public-private partnership and transit-oriented land development.

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