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Dec 16,2010 Tri City News

While promising to back Mayor Joe Trasolini in voting down any Evergreen Line budget that does not include funding for the Murray-Clarke Connector, Port Moody city councillors began eyeing their alternatives Tuesday.

Some of those alternatives presented to council by city manager Gaetan Royer aim to drum up independent funding for MCC while others are designed to put pressure on TransLink to get it back on the books.

Before the alternatives were put forth, Royer gave his own appraisal of the long-awaited overpass in light of TransLink's dropping of the project from its recent 2011 supplemental budget.

Although that proposed budget has since been withdrawn, there is no indication TransLink intends to fund Murray-Clarke in the future, due to what it deemed the project's lack of priority from a business standpoint, he said.

"Unless the MCC [Murray-Clarke Connector] is re-inserted in TransLink's list of priority projects in the immediate future, the project will be delayed by at least a further four years," Royer wrote in his presentation to council. "The best estimate is that the city will continue to be thwarted in its efforts to get this long-overdue project built until at least early 2015."

Following his assessment, the mayor and council discussed what interim measures they could undertake to ease traffic problems in Port Moody and get Murray-Clarke built with or without TransLink money.

The first of five measures tabled, but not recommended by Royer or his city staff, involves synchronizing traffic signals and adding dedicated lanes to optimize through-traffic flow during peak hours while increasing delays for local traffic and pedestrians.

Coun. Diana Dilworth was alone in supporting that plan.

"We rely on access to other municipalities to get to our places of business, to get to our homes, and I think we do have a regional responsibility in some respect," she said. "So I would look at how we can accommodate one-way or through-way traffic if we don't get the MCC."

The second measure considered was just the opposite, with non-local traffic being diverted away from Port Moody.

This option, favoured by councillors Bob Elliott, Meghan Lahti and Karen Rockwell, would use lane restrictions, traffic-calmed areas, one-way streets and barriers to shift through-traffic away from Port Moody and onto major routes such as Como Lake and Austin avenues, Lougheed Highway and Highway 1.

"I think now we have to make a statement that we cannot just keep letting them [TransLink] take advantage of us. So, to make a statement, I'd like to see [option] number two happen," Elliott said.

The third measure proposed to council was for the city to build the Murray-Clarke Connector on its own by borrowing money, amending city budgets and, possibly, stretching the construction over phases. This measure also suggested imposing tolls on Port Moody roadways, something Mayor Trasolini said the city would have to ask the province for the authority to do.

The fourth option before the city involves working directly with TransLink to develop the "business case" for the expanded east-west corridor connector so the transit authority will recognize it as a priority.

That idea drew mixed reactions.

If TransLink is after a business-minded justification for the connector, that should be self-evident in the expansion of the east-west corridor, Trasolini said.

"The notion that we have to provide a business plan is insulting," Lahti said. "As the mayor has indicated, this has been on their plan for several years since TransLink's existence and all of a sudden for them to turn around and say that there is no validation for it is ridiculous."

Lahti added that she supports restricting road access to Port Moody "strategically" in order to make the point to TransLink and to the province that MCC needs to be built.

The fifth and final option considered by Port Moody council involves developing a public relations strategy to put pressure on TransLink and the province to support Murray-Clarke while keeping the issue top-of-mind for Port Moody and Metro Vancouver residents.

tcoyne@tricitynews.com

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