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Feb 28,2007

NDP attacks public-private partnership for Evergreen Line

By Leneen Robb - Staff Reporter

The NDP says Transportation Minister Kevin Falcon's plan to make the proposed Evergreen Line a public-private partnership will cost taxpayers.

"Budget documents released this week show that under the B.C. Liberal government these public-private partnerships cost the taxpayer significantly more," Opposition transportation critic David Chudnovsky said in a news release issued Tuesday.

"(Premier) Gordon Campbell and Kevin Falcon are planning a similar giveaway for the rapid transit line that will serve Burnaby and the Tri-Cities."

Falcon told The Vancouver Sun last week that the Evergreen Line from Lougheed Mall to Coquitlam Town Centre will "absolutely" be built - adding that he is certain it will be built as a public-private partnership.

Falcon added that he has told TransLink its plan to build the Evergreen Line as a public project "is absolutely not on. You are going to be examining a P3 option and I can tell you, I can't see any circumstances where this is not done as a P3."

The Sun also reported that TransLink has already submitted a new business case for the project to Partnerships B.C., a provincially owned company that oversees P3s.

TransLink is missing $400 million of the line's estimated $970-million budget.

TransLink chair Malcolm Brodie said at a news conference last October that if senior levels of government do not fill the funding gap by April, the line will not be built.

While the Canada Line under construction from Vancouver to Richmond is being funded through a public-private partnership, Brodie said at the October news conference that is not an option for the Evergreen Line - which, unlike its counterpart, would not link a central business district, an international airport and the province's largest hospital.

"You would not be able to raise the private sector capital required," the Richmond mayor said at the time.

Along with funding problems, the proposed Evergreen Line has been plagued by criticisms that it will be too slow and that it's a second-rate version of SkyTrain.

It's debatable how much support the line has among Tri-Cities residents - a recent all-candidates meeting for Saturday's Coquitlam city council byelection was dominated by discussion of whether SkyTrain would be better.

Despite the SkyTrain-versus-LRT debate, however, all three Tri-Cities mayors met on Feb. 9 to make another plea for the line. A Feb. 5 letter to federal Transportation Minister Lawrence Cannon that was signed by the three mayors states that TransLink is reviewing the project to find ways to shave up to $100 million off its cost - including looking at "private sector equity opportunities."

But Chudnovsky said Tuesday that another transportation project that was built as a P3, the Sea-to-Sky Highway, is costing taxpayers more than it was supposed to.

published on 02/28/2007

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