Port Moody may be celebrating its Murray-Clarke Connector victory but a Port Coquitlam councillor says fairness and transparent decision-making paid the price.
Coun. Greg Moore sent a letter to TransLink (and posted it at his website, www.gregmoore.ca) that questioned TransLink’s decision to double funding for the Murray-Clarke Connector while leaving PoCo’s Coast Meridian Overpass — also a much-needed regional artery, Moore contends — out in the cold.
“My frustration isn’t with Port Moody and them getting funding — it’s a needed connector in our regional transportation system,” he said. “It’s frustration about the consistency of TransLink’s decision-making process and transparency.”
At its last board meeting Wednesday TransLink agreed to pay $50 million for the Murray-Clarke Connector; the city is contributing $4 million and any cost overruns. The PoMo project has been on the books for nearly 20 years, since the provincial government built the Barnet-Hastings People Moving Project.
About 60% of traffic currently travelling the two-lane overpass comes from outside Port Moody.
PoCo has considered an overpass to cross the CP Rail tracks since 1990; about 10 years later, the city settled on the Coast Meridian Overpass. In the four years PoCo has been negotiating financing, engineering and rights-of-way details, the budgeted cost of the overpass has bulged to $132 million. TransLink has agreed to pay $60 million, about 45% of the total, leaving PoCo to cover the remainder.
Requests to TransLink for more funding have been refused.
Moore said the Coast Meridian Overpass is the most direct route between Coquitlam’s Burke Mountain and the Mary Hill Bypass, and to the Lougheed Highway to accommodate Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows traffic.
“This is definitely a regional connection, that’s why the northeast sector mayors supported it and why TransLink approved it,” he said. “It’s going to accommodate a community the size of Port Moody on Burke Mountain and for that traffic to leave Burke Mountain, most will come through Port Coquitlam.
“In that context, it really shows the magnitude of traffic concerns we’ll be facing if this doesn’t get built.”
Moore added that the Coast Meridian Overpass shouldn’t be sacrificed because another municipality decided to “lobby [TransLink], protest, block regional traffic... and cause a disturbance,” he said in his letter.
He also notes that since the city of PoMo blocking traffic on Barnet Highway Monday morning seemed to work, maybe PoCo should consider barricading the Mary Hill Bypass or Lougheed Highway to get the desired results.
“The perception is that protesting and blocking roads gets action, and that’s not a very positive message to be sending to municipalities,” Moore said. “Going forward, I hope the future board learns it needs to be more open, transparent and fair with each municipality it deals with.”
Port Moody Mayor Joe Trasolini said he supports the Coast Meridian Overpass but the project can’t be compared to the Murray-Clarke Connector.
“Murray-Clarke was a provincial project and it was inherited by TransLink,” he said. “It’s an inter-municipal road, a project that was initiated from outside, not within Port Moody. It’s part of [TransLink’s] major road network... so the funding reflected those issues.”
TransLink spokesperson Ken Hardie said the transportation authority wouldn’t respond to Moore’s letter.
“The overpass was scoped out in 2004 at $60 million, and that has remained our commitment,” he said, adding the regular course of action is to seek further funding from other levels of government.