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Sep 23,2010 Vancouver Sun


METRO VANCOUVER -- Metro mayors have struck a deal with the B.C. government to consider everything from road pricing, vehicle levies and carbon tax revenue to help pay for the long-awaited Evergreen Line.

Langley City Mayor Peter Fassbender, chairman of the regional mayors' council on transportation, said Metro mayors will vote at the end of this year on a proposed financial supplement to build the rapid transit line to Coquitlam.

TransLink must come up with its share -- $400 million-- of the $1.2 billion project.

"What it will look like and how it will be funded I can't tell you," he told participants at Tri-Cities Chamber of Commerce luncheon Thursday. "But I can tell you the premier and the minister have said the line will be built and you can take that to the bank."

Under a memorandum of understanding signed Thursday between the mayors' council and the province, the two sides have agreed to work together to find the money for the Evergreen Line and build a "long-term sustainable transit system."

Premier Gordon Campbell said "everything's back on the table," including the possibility of charging a contentious vehicle levy. But before any decisions are made, the public will be able to have their say, he added.

"We can't keep on adding to our demand if we don't have a revenue stream to support it," Campbell said outside the meeting at the Vancouver Golf Course in Coquitlam.

"It's time for us to have an adult conversation with people about the services we're trying to provide, what services they want ... And what trade-offs they're likely to support."

Transportation Minister Shirley Bond said the MOU is about laying out a framework to discuss funding transit "priorities" in Metro Vancouver. One possibility for funding, she said, is perhaps taking advantage of a development clause to have investors pay for transit enhancements.

She said it will be up the regional mayors to decide if the financial supplement will only fund the Evergreen Line or other projects.

"Everybody wants more transit and transportation options but nobody can figure out how to pay for them," she said, adding the rest of the province will be watching this situation "closely."

Coquitlam Mayor Richard Stewart said the deal will allow municipalities to use other means -- other than just raising property taxes -- to pay for transit services.

"If we don't have those tools we may as well give up," he said, but added "the goal has to be sustainable transportation across the region."

Construction is expected to start on the Evergreen Line next year with completion in 2014.

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