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Nov 26,2010 Now News


Municipal politicians can put their guns back in their holsters, as the showdown over TransLink funding will not go on.

Coquitlam Mayor Richard Stewart told The NOW Thursday that the contentious vote over funding the Evergreen Line and other capital projects has been suspended until spring, after a deadline extension was granted by the province.

"I had been pushing to delay the vote. Bad timing makes bad public policy," Stewart said.

The mayors' council for TransLink was set to vote on Dec. 9 on two supplemental plans for capital spending that both included the Evergreen Line and North Fraser perimeter road improvements.

The board-recommended plans included $40 million in TransLink reserves to kick-start the process, which would be backstopped by property taxes in case additional funding sources could not be found.

Rumblings had emerged, however, that the mayors were finding the concept of guaranteeing supplemental funding with property taxes too unpalatable to support, and the plan was set to go down heavily opposed.

But the funding for the Evergreen Line had to be in place by the end of December to allow the province to begin the request-for-proposal (RFP) process that would meet federal timelines for stimulus funding.

Mayors' council representatives are scheduled to meet with Transportation Minister Shirley Bond in the new year to discuss potential funding sources for TransLink apart from property taxes.

"I suspect by March we'll have a better idea about the kinds of tools we'll be using to fund," Stewart said.

Coquitlam's mayor suggests policy makers begin to think outside the North American box for potential funding sources, including specific levies against land sales boasting windfall profits due to area-improving rapid transit projects.

"The hope is by mid-year, we'll have a broader range of tools, including the mechanisms the rest of the world uses to fund transportation systems," he said.

"Those are much more appropriate mechanisms. I'm against property taxes, even though the mayors committed to it four years ago, I'm against the use of property taxes."

The Evergreen Line project faces a funding shortfall of $573 million.

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