Mayors react to LRT delay
By Simone Blais - Staff Reporter
Commuting by bus for an additional year-and-a-half will be the reality for public transit users in the Tri-Cities, after TransLink voted unanimously Wednesday to delay completion of the proposed Evergreen Line.
Mayors from Coquitlam, Port Coquitlam and Port Moody voted in favour of delaying the "in-service date" - when passengers could begin riding the Evergreen Line - to September 2011 from December 2009, in an attempt to curb the project's escalating costs and increasing risk.
Coquitlam Mayor Maxine Wilson said the vote to delay opening the light rail transit line reflects the true timeline of how the project is progressing.
"Politicians agreed in a narrow vote - it was only a one-vote decision - that the Canada Line could go ahead as long as the Evergreen Line was built concurrently. Obviously it isn't being built concurrently, because the Canada Line has been under construction for a year now," she said.
"We should have had [rapid transit] in 2000. It should have been built before the Millennium Line to Burnaby, but we got pushed off the table."
According to a report submitted by TransLink staff, more time to build the line would prevent having to buy another tunnel boring machine - as the one TransLink currently has is carving out the Canada Line.
The completion-date extension, staff wrote, would enable construction crews to use the same boring machine for a savings of $107 million.
Port Coquitlam Mayor Scott Young said he couldn't ignore such a saving.
"From our perspective, in Port Coquitlam, $107 million would go a long ways to extending the line even further east to our community," he said. "We have to think along those lines and [try] getting the very best value for our transit dollar."
While the mayors and TransLink board members may have reached consensus on extending the time to build the line, it may have been a decision made with gritted teeth.
"I'm angry because it's been 20 bloody years," Port Moody Mayor Joe Trasolini said of waiting for the northeast sector's transit line. "Am I disappointed? Yes, I'm extremely disappointed. Am I angry? Yes, I'm extremely angry. But I'm also a realist."
Trasolini said that he voted in favour of the extension because having construction on St. Johns Street for both the Evergreen Line and the Murray-Clarke Connector would cause traffic chaos, and that "there's too much risk because of the hurrying up of the design" of the transit line.
He also couldn't see TransLink going to senior levels of government with its hand out if it had spent the $107 million for a duplicate machine.
"We have to go to the provincial and federal government to get an extra $300 or $400 million. How can we justify that if we decide to waste $107 million?" he said.
The Evergreen Line was first estimated to cost $800 million.
In June, however, staff increased that estimate to $1.06 billion, to cover not only the additional tunnel boring machine, but design changes made during planning and after consulting with affected communities. As the in-service date was delayed, the project cost is now pegged at $953 million.
To date, $400 million has been put in by TransLink to build the Evergreen Line, and the province has chipped in $170 million.
All three mayors said TransLink's focus should now be on forcing the federal and provincial governments to cover the $383-million shortfall.
"Enough is enough already," Trasolini said. "The provincial government, originally they were going to supply 50 per cent of the funding for a project like this. Their funding to date is 17 per cent. That's not adequate.
"The federal government, they're talking about paying all sorts of money for transit and all that. Well, let's see it. There's been lots of talk and it's time for our MLAs and our MPs _ to work together to get this funding coming to the Tri-Cities."
published on 07/21/2006