Jan 11,2008 Tri City News

Company that did some earlier work on connector gets design contract

After decades of waiting, complaining and campaigning, Port Moody took its first big step Tuesday towards some traffic relief.

PoMo council awarded the $1.26-million design contract for the four-lane Murray-Clarke Connector to Associated Engineering Ltd., which worked on the connector’s original design in 2005 and preliminary west-option design in 2006. That upcoming detailed design work amounts to about 3% of the project’s budgeted price of $50 million. Construction could begin as early as fall.

Although the exact alignment of the overpass is still not decided because private land will have to be purchased and TransLink will have to approve it, the design will focus on council’s preferred west-option route.

“At this time, I’m not excluding anything,” Mayor Joe Trasolini said when a resident at Tuesday’s council meeting asked about the alignment. “The only thing I’m saying is west option — yes.”

Detailed design and land acquisition needs to be jump started, the city says, because of high inflationary costs, environmental approvals, etc. Costs could increase as much as 1% every month, according to a representative from Associated Engineering, and costs in excess of $50 million will be paid for by the city.

Staff’s contract recommendation was based on the firm’s knowledge of the project, value and availability.

“We want to make sure that if there is a delay and it goes beyond 2008, it isn’t because of Port Moody’s actions,” Trasolini said. “So, in other words, we’re doing all that we can to put things in front of TransLink so that the project can proceed.”

Last month, as one of its final acts before its dissolution, the TransLink board approved going to final design and construction of the connector to free up congestion for commuters who take the Barnet Highway west to and from Burnaby and Vancouver.

TransLink will lead the project and pay $46 million of the cost while the city will contribute $4 million, plus any cost overruns, and oversee it.

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 year, TransLink spent $60,000 on another engineering study.