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Oct 21,2010 Tri City News

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Port Moody council may pull its support for the Evergreen Line if the Murray-Clarke Connector isn't built.

At a special meeting Tuesday, council again discussed the 32 requirements it says are critical to its support for Evergreen. Among them is building the connector before construction of the rapid transit line.

But with TransLink struggling to cover the funding gap just to get Evergreen built and pay for other needed transportation projects throughout the region Murray-Clarke has fallen off the radar once again.

"It's one of the prerequisites of us going along with the Evergreen Line," said PoMo Mayor Joe Trasolini of the connector. "We're very concerned that now it seems the Murray-Clarke Connector is being orphaned again. It's nowhere on the priority list of TransLink" even though the previous board not only approved the project in 2008 but also allocated $50 million for its construction.

Costs for the connector, which will have to be extended to reach over the SkyTrain line, are now estimated at more than $70 million. PoMo has set aside $4 million for the project.

"Today, when we're expecting it to be completed, all of a sudden TransLink doesn't have it on its priority list," Trasolini added. "It's a great concern to us and should be to everyone east of us. It throws doubts on our support for construction of the Evergreen Line."

TransLink must come up with $400 million for its share of the $1.4-billion Evergreen Line and Metro mayors have recently balked at suggestions to hike property taxes to pay for Evergreen and part of the North Fraser Perimeter Road (Option A: $465 million) or a handful of regional projects including expanded bus service and station upgrades (Option B: $338 million).

Trasolini says Murray-Clarke must be built regardless of those funding issues.

"With the narrow corridor in Port Moody, if the Murray-Clarke Connector remains undelivered when construction for the Evergreen Line starts, you can see the disruption we'll have. This is not just a Port Moody problem, it's a northeast sector problem."

Trasolini maintains the connector is not a new TransLink expansion project but the completion of an existing project the Barnet Highway that was promised by the province more than 20 years ago.

But TransLink CEO Ian Jarvis sees it differently, noting earlier this month that the original justification for the connector was to protect Moody Centre businesses when the Evergreen Line was planned as an at-grade LRT system down St. Johns Street. With the switch to an elevated SkyTrain system, the Murray-Clarke Connector is no longer an urgent priority, Jarvis said.

Trasolini said it's "absurd" that a one-lane overpass that causes rush-hour back-ups stretching for several kilometres is part of the inter-municipal corridor, echoing an earlier council discussion that suggested PoMo may withdraw the Murray-Clarke from TransLink's major road network and block access to it for commuters coming from outside Port Moody.

He also wants to know whether the new, provincially appointed TransLink board, whose meetings are closed to the public, rescinded approval and funding for Murray-Clarke.

Trasolini and city manager Gaetan Royer were to meet with TransLink executives today (Friday) to discuss the issue. Royer said it's unclear what effect Port Moody's withdrawal of support for Evergreen would have on the project or who will cover the increased cost of the Murray-Clarke Connector.

"We have a tougher job getting support for the Murray-Clarke Connector because now it's going to cost more, it's going to have to be a longer bridge," Royer said. "We want the province, which is the lead of the Evergreen Line, to pay for the longer bridge... because it would be a smaller project were it not for the Evergreen Line."

spayne@tricitynews.com

with files from Jeff Nagel

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