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Sept 8,2006

By Janis Warren The Tri-City News
Sep 08 2006

Will rapid transit ever come to Tri-City?

That’s the question on the minds of local politicians, business owners, developers and residents as TransLink crafts its business case this month for more federal and provincial government money to build the Evergreen Line from Lougheed Town Centre to Coquitlam.

Tuesday, Coquitlam city council voted unanimously to urge TransLink to shorten the construction timeline so Evergreen will be complete in 2009.

Earlier this summer, TransLink directors — including Coquitlam Mayor Maxine Wilson, who voted in favour of Tuesday’s motion — agreed to a 2011 completion date.

Coquitlam councillors said they couldn’t understand how the cost for the light-rapid transit line would be cheaper by finishing it 18 months later. (With the 2011 opening, the cost would be $953 million while the “aggressive” 2009 opening would push the price tag to $1.06 billion, TransLink staff say. Both figures are higher than was budgeted for the project.)

Wednesday, Wilson told The Tri-City News council’s motion was “unrealistic” but she voted yes because she felt it would give her ammunition at the TransLink table to show how much Coquitlam considers the line a priority.

“It should have been done before the Millennium [SkyTrain] Line,” Wilson said. “People are very fearful that we’re going to be left behind again.”

Coun. Louella Hollington, who made the motion, said rapid transit is a critical link for the development of the northeast sector, especially for Burke Mountain, where Coquitlam plans to accommodate 24,000 residents over the next 20 years.

Coquitlam’s motion is a sign of “sheer frustration,” said Port Moody Mayor Joe Trasolini, also a TransLink director. And he suggested that if funding from the senior governments doesn’t come through and the Evergreen Line is declared dead, he would work to freeze development in his city, thereby holding up the GVRD’s plan to double the population in every municipality in the Lower Mainland by 2020.

“We have been approving developments in this area with the understanding that a rapid-transit line would be built,” he said.

Although PoMo has little vacant land left, Trasolini said its city council could deny future land-use applications for areas such as Ioco.

He suggested other cities follow suit to put pressure on the rest of the region and its farmland.

In Port Coquitlam, where council is working to densify downtown to lure rapid transit to the area, Mayor Scott Young, also a TransLink director, said he will stick to the transportation body’s decision to build the Evergreen Line by 2011.

“There were some savings associated with having it extend beyond the 2010 [Olympic Winter] Games when a lot of the big projects are completed in the region and there will be a lot more available trades and resources to hopefully get some more competitive bids,” Young said. “We’re all very eager to have it service our region but we’re dealing with limited resources and I think we’ve got to recognize that.

“There still is a shortfall with the project,” he said, “and when we go to senior levels of government looking for contributions towards this very necessary project, I think we have to demonstrate that we’re trying to be as responsible as we can.”

Young said overlooking the potential savings “only opens ourselves up for criticism from other levels of government.”

Regardless of the politics at the local level, TransLink spokesperson Ken Hardie said, “It would be highly unlikely” the Evergreen Line could be built by 2009, “even if all the money was in place.”

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