Dec 12,2007 Tri City News

By Sarah Payne - The Tri-City News - December 12, 2007

A photograph of the lineup of vehicles caused by the city of Port Moody closing a lane on Barnet Highway during Monday morning rush hour to try to rally support for the Murray-Clarke Connector.
PoMo spent $1,300 on demonstration

Monday’s early-morning demonstration in Port Moody likely got plenty of commuters agitated — but was it enough to get the Murray-Clarke Connector project off its 20-year spin cycle?

Probably not.

When the transportation authority board meets for the last time today, it will consider a report that recommends it look into paring down the four-lane overpass to two lanes and that TransLink staff do further studies on the project’s cost estimates.

The prospect of more delays on a project that has been promised for nearly 20 years has Port Moody Mayor Joe Trasolini irate.

“Now they’re questioning the overpass, maybe making it two lanes,” he said. “Isn’t that what we already have? And they want to do more studies? We’re feeling a sense of frustration.”

Since the connector was approved as part of the Barnet-Hastings People Moving Project in 1990, more than $1 million has been spent on Murray-Clarke studies. TransLink and PoMo spent another $250,000 on a preliminary design study in 2006 and, last month, TransLink spent $60,000 on an engineering study.

Back in 1996, TransLink earmarked $25 million for the project but it’s now expected to cost twice that. Cutting two lanes from the overpass could save $10 million, which, according to the report going before the board today, is enough for it to consider re-investigating traffic projections to better understand the “functional needs” of the project.

Trasolini said Monday’s demonstration, which was put on by the city and in which a westbound lane of traffic was blocked off on Barnet Highway east of Ioco Road, was intended to show what motorists can expect if the connector doesn’t get built or is only two lanes wide.

“Sixty per cent of traffic that goes over the Murray-Clarke is from outside the city of Port Moody,” he said. “We’re highlighting the fact that Port Moody is a funnel for traffic from the east.”

Trasolini said he’s counting on pressure from the demonstration, and from the city’s recent push to get residents to speak as delegates at today’s board meeting, to push the connector through.

The city spent about $1,300 on signs and advertising, and staff time for the demonstration was akin to overtime required to deal with rear-end collisions on the current “substandard” Murray-Clarke overpass, said city manager Gaetan Royer.

“This is the last board meeting,” Trasolini added. “After that, we won’t even get to see the agendas, we won’t get the minutes, we won’t have any public representation.

“You would think a project of this significance would be finalized before that happens.”

But TransLink spokesperson Ken Hardie said the board “remains committed” to the Murray-Clarke Connector and questions to be discussed at today’s meeting aren’t putting the project at risk.

“Because there have been design changes over time, it hasn’t yet come up for specific project approval,” he said, noting once the alignment has been finalized, it would then come before the new board structure. (Under recently passed provincial legislation, the current TransLink board, made up of elected municipal officials, will be replaced by a panel of professionals.)

Hardie also said TransLink would only consider a two-lane configuration if the traffic engineering study shows it would meet demand.