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Dec 11,2007 Globe and Mail

Port Moody politicians and residents are seeking money to secure the building of a four-lane overpass

Special to The Globe and Mail

Frustrated commuters were greeted by partial roadblocks around Port Moody yesterday morning as city councillors played an aggressive hand in their fight to secure funds for a new overpass.

The councillors, city staff and some residents blocked off lanes of the Barnet Highway and Guildford Way in Coquitlam to bring attention to what they say is a desperately needed piece of infrastructure. Now, some Port Moody councillors say they will not approve any more development in the region until the issue is resolved.

"We wanted to point out the kind of traffic issues that will continue unless the infrastructure is brought up to date," Mayor Joe Trasolini said. "Until then, the status quo will remain."

Mr. Trasolini said he and his fellow councillors feel cheated by TransLink and Metro Vancouver because they promised to upgrade infrastructure if the city opened up development under the Livable Region Strategic Plan.

In 1999, Port Moody signed the plan and committed to increase its population from 23,000 to more than 40,000 by 2010. Now that the population has increased, officials say it doesn't have the roads to support the traffic.

According to Mr. Trasolini, the city was promised money for roadwork that would come with the population increase.

When it was first conceived, the estimated cost of the four-lane overpass was $25-million - which TransLink has already approved.

But construction costs have increased, and the price rests at around $50-million. Port Moody wants TransLink to pay the bill. That has prompted the governing body to have the plan reviewed by engineers to determine whether a cheaper, two-lane overpass would work. TransLink spokesman Ken Hardie defended the move to review the original plan.

"We're not saying [a four-lane overpass is] a good idea or a bad idea," Mr. Hardie said. "We just don't want to overbuild and spend money on something we don't need."

Mr. Trasolini said re-examining the project will take too long.

"If you ask me, we don't need more studies, we need action," he said. "The only thing that's happening here is more consultants are being paid. They're going to create their own work. That's exactly what's happening here."

The overpass was initially planned in the late 1980s. TransLink, which is being restructured with a new board, holds its last meeting under its old structure tomorrow.

Port Moody Councillor Bob Elliott said if a decision is not made tomorrow, he expects that, because of the board transition, the project will be held up longer.

"You can be positive all you want, but [the TransLink board] haven't really come forward with anything," Mr. Elliott said. "Wednesday is our last kick at the can. I won't support any more development if something isn't done."

Mr. Elliott said that despite some irate drivers yesterday morning, he felt there was more positive than negative reaction from people stuck in the traffic snarl.

Port Moody police Sergeant Phil Reid said the department didn't receive any complaints from drivers and no arrests were made because the city obtained permits to close the lanes.


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