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July 15,2011 Tri City News

By Todd Coyne - The Tri-City News
Published: July 14, 2011 5:00 PM
Updated: July 15, 2011 2:33 PM

TransLink’s refusal to build the Murray-Clarke Connector is just the latest episode in what Port Moody councillors are calling “decades” of neglect at the hands of the transit authority.

In response, city council voted Tuesday to take its ball and go home.

With a lone dissenting vote from Coun. Diana Dilworth, Port Moody’s mayor and council voted in favour of a motion to “immediately commence action to initiate the process to remove the Port Moody section of Guildford Way and all of Murray and Clarke streets from the MRN [TransLink’s major roads network].”

That means city staff will try to take back Murray and Clarke streets — which have been under TransLink’s authority as regional arterial roads since 1996 — and make them municipal streets on which the city would have sole jurisdiction to alter traffic flow.

And while deliberately hindering through-traffic on Murray and Clarke streets isn’t council’s motivation for reclaiming the busy commuter corridor, the message from council was clear: once Murray and Clarke streets are reclaimed for the best interests of Port Moody residents, Coquitlam commuters and others who travel through the city on their daily commute, may want to avoid it in the future.

TransLink’s director of roads, Sany Zein, said Port Moody’s request to withdraw from the MRN is a move without precedent.

“A municipality coming to us and saying they want a road taken off the MRN outright hasn’t really happened before as far as we know, looking through our records, but we’ll work with the city on developing an appropriate process,” he said.

Coun. Karen Rockwell was specific about what areas would likely be most impacted by any changes favouring local traffic through the Murray-Clarke corridor.

“If it means that the 30,000 residents that have moved in to Burke Mountain have to go around to the Lougheed Highway or have to go up Mariner [Way] and along Como Lake [Avenue] then, oh well, not my problem,” Rockwell said.

All councillors seemed to agree on that point, with Coun. Bob Elliott saying those communities east of Port Moody “really don’t give a damn about us anyway,” with what he called their insistence on rapid growth and development while ignoring their traffic burden on Port Moody.

TransLink spokesperson Ken Hardie warned that withdrawing from the MRN would have financial implications for Port Moody, as the city would lose out on maintenance and improvement money for those streets currently under the MRN.

The Murray-Clarke Connector plan first took shape in the 1980s but it wasn’t until 2007 that TransLink voted to build it and subsequently put up $50 million toward its construction. Last year the connector suddenly dropped from TransLink’s budget, the transit authority saying there was no business case for the connector.

At Port Moody’s insistence, that business case was studied and the report brought to council Tuesday night. However, Mayor Joe Trasolini called the study so full of assumptions and falsehoods that he would not justify it by even beginning to poke holes in it in council.

Zein, the director of roads, said the transit authority didn’t have any agenda or preconceptions when it carried out its business case assessment of Murray-Clarke, adding that he “absolutely” stands behind the TransLink report and its findings.

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