July 20,2007 - Now News

John Kurucz, Coquitlam NOW
Published: Friday, July 20, 2007

Much ado about nothing.

That's how Mike Clay, Port Moody's acting mayor, characterized the relative uproar over Vancouver Mayor Sam Sullivan's backing of a $1-million feasibility study to extend the Millennium SkyTrain Line from Commercial Drive toward UBC.

The Greater Vancouver Regional District (GVRD) board will vote on the study today (Friday), and critics of the proposal -- most notably Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan -- have said the study is undermining the process of getting the Evergreen Line up and running.

"It's not something I'm concerned about personally," Clay said. "The two have nothing to do with one another. There's nothing nefarious going on at all."

Clay said he's been in contact with TransLink chair Malcolm Brodie several times over the last few days and was assured that the feasibility study will have no effect on the fate of the Evergreen Line.

"There's no insinuation there at all that money will be taken from the Evergreen Line (for this study) -- if it was then I would be freaking out," Clay said.

"This is just a preliminary step for something that will happen down the road."

With a projected cost of $970 million, the proposed light rail system for the Tri-Cities has been in the works for close to 10 years, but still faces a $400-million funding shortfall.

To date, TransLink has committed $400 million to the project, while the province has pledged $170 million after 2010. Mayors from throughout the northeast sector have repeatedly called on both the province and the federal government to provide the remainder of the funds.

"As soon as that money comes across the table, the axe will hit the ground," Clay said.

Earlier this year, Brodie issued a funding ultimatum to senior levels of government stating that efforts to build the line would be scrapped by April if the remaining funds were not found.

Brodie had previously said the prospect of entering into a public-private funding partnership -- much like the model used in the building of the Canada Line -- is unlikely due to the unwillingness of the private sector to jump on board.

The proposed Evergreen Line would serve the area between Lougheed mall and Coquitlam's Town Centre, and is projected to be the equivalent of an eight-lane roadway along the Clarke Road-St. Johns Street-Pinetree Way corridor in terms of people-moving capacity.

If built, the line is projected to convert 1.9 million annual car trips to transit shortly after its establishment.

That number is projected to balloon to 3.6 million converted trips by 2021.

Critics of the proposed line, however, have taken issue with the fact that it would be slower in terms of travel time than a SkyTrain route.

Late Thursday afternoon, TransLink issued a news release stating that the Evergreen Line "is not 'on the shelf' as has been reported by some news media."

"The light rail transit system for the northeast sector is the number one rapid transit priority for TransLink," Brodie said in the release.

"We have defined the project, and now we are waiting for funding to be confirmed from senior levels of government."

"The business case prepared last year by TransLink staff proves that the Evergreen Line is vital for maintaining and enhancing the quality of life in the northeast sector," Brodie said.

"The Broadway alternatives study is something completely different and must not be seen as a case of one part of the region 'jumping the queue' over another."