Sep 12,2007 Tri City News

By Sarah Payne The Tri-City News

Sep 12 2007

Frustrated Port Moody developers will be making a last-ditch effort to get the Murray-Clarke Connector on TransLink’s front burner before the province overhauls the beleaguered transportation authority.

But the mixed group of business leaders doesn’t think it should have to take on the job of getting the 20-year-old project built.

“It’s become such a ridiculous problem,” said Russell Bond, a Tri-City realtor who is spearheading the group in its fight to get the Murray-Clarke Connector off the drawing board and on the ground. “The last thing a group of developers and consultants want to do is sit here and solve three cities’ traffic problems.”

The group, including representatives of Andres Wines as well as property owners from Clarke Street and Dewdney Trunk Road, met last week for a strategy session. About a dozen of them plan to attend next month’s TransLink board meeting to request full funding for the Murray-Clarke Connector because, without it, their projects are little more than drawings on paper.

Since March Port Moody council has been rejecting development applications that would increase the city’s density. Mayor Joe Trasolini said he understands developers are “rightly upset, but I think they understand that we have to work together.”

The city wants to grow, he added, but there’s simply no room for any further growth until it’s supported by infrastructure.

Port Moody’s latest official community plan was approved in 2000 only after the city complied with Metro Vancouver’s population growth numbers mandated in the Liveable Region Strategic Plan (LRSP).

“But that same OCP said we would complete the Murray-Clarke Connector and rapid transit,” Trasolini said. “We’ve lived up to our bargain, and now it’s time for [TransLink] to live up to their bargain.”

Numerous developments, including such high-density projects as Onni’s Suter Brook, Polygon’s Klahanie and Mosaic’s Corbeau on Dewdney Trunk Road, have been green-lit based on the promise of better transportation to ease commuter gridlock being funnelled into Port Moody from the rest of the north east sector.

It was the early 1980s when the Murray-Clarke Connector was first introduced as part of the provincial government’s People-Moving Project; the Barnet Highway was built but stopped short of Connector construction. By the mid ‘90s it was deferred in favour of the West Coast Express and it wasn’t until 2003 that TransLink took official responsibility for the project, earmarking $25 million for it.

Skyrocketing construction costs mean that it will now likely cost closer to $50 million — and the clock is ticking.

TransLink’s board meeting next month is the last one before the regional transportation authority is replaced with a new, unelected board of professionals and Trasolini, who’s putting forward a notice of motion requesting full support for Murray-Clarke, suspects unfunded projects will get the chop.

“This is the last kick at getting the Murray-Clarke Connector before we hand the reins over to the new board,” he said. “If Murray-Clarke is not finalized we can kiss it good-by for a couple of years. It’s a great concern to me, to Port Moody and it should be to all of the north east sector.

“The Murray-Clarke Connector is past overdue. It’s a tremendous bottleneck.”