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May 26,2006

William Boei, Vancouver Sun

Published: Friday, May 26, 2006

GREATER VANCOUVER - The Evergreen rapid transit line to the northeast sector of Greater Vancouver is in serious jeopardy if the provincial government does not contribute more money to help pay for it, Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan said Thursday.

Corrigan and seven other northeast mayors issued a joint statement urging the province to kick in $230 million -- in addition to $170 million it has already committed -- for the $800-million light rail line.

TransLink, the regional transportation authority, is planning to borrow $400 million for its share of the cost.

The mayors said the Evergreen Line is needed to link some of the region's major growth centres with rapid transit, and said it would "enhance the effectiveness" of the province's $3-billion Gateway Program to build new roads and bridges.

Transportation Minister Kevin Falcon was not encouraging.

"My position today is that we will maintain the commitment we have always maintained -- $170 million available for the northeast sector line post-2010," Falcon said. "And that has not changed. I respect their right to ask for more money but I'm not making any commitments in that regard."

TransLink wants to get the line built before the 2010 Winter Games, but has been told by the province its contribution won't be available until after 2010 and TransLink will have to borrow if it wants to build it earlier.

TransLink's financial projections show it will be running operating deficits in the hundreds of millions of dollars by the end of the decade unless it gets more funding.

Corrigan wasn't surprised by Falcon's response.

"That's going to require a cabinet decision and the premier's going to have to be involved," he said.

But he said the province once paid for 100 per cent of major transit projects, and has now pared that down to 20 to 25 per cent.

"That is putting an unreasonable burden on the property taxpayer," Corrigan said. "And it certainly isn't assisting growth and development in the Lower Mainland."

Corrigan said the Evergreen line is in serious jeopardy.

"The project has been in jeopardy since the time they made the decision to go with the RAV Line," he said, referring to the Richmond-Airport-Vancouver line, now called the Canada Line.

TransLink, under pressure from the province, agreed two years ago to make the $2-billion Canada Line its first priority, vaulting it ahead of the northeast line.

Some northeast mayors on TransLink's board voted for the change only after they were promised the northeast line would be built simultaneously. But with the funding shortage, that commitment is looking increasingly shaky.

"This is what I've been saying since they prioritized the RAV Line," Corrigan said, "that it was the northeast sector line that was going to suffer, and that we would find ourselves in a position where there wasn't enough money to do both projects."

He said only public pressure can change the government's mind on its share of the funding, and predicted "that many of the people in those northeast communities will react very strongly."

In addition to Burnaby's Corrigan, the joint statement was endorsed by the mayors of Anmore, Coquitlam, Maple Ridge, New Westminster, Pitt Meadows, Port Coquitlam and Port Moody.

In a statement, the mayors said, "All mayors agreed that the current estimated funding shortfall of $230 million for the Evergreen transit project is posing a serious threat to its timely implementation."

bboei@png.canwest.com

 The Vancouver Sun 2006
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