Jan 16,2008 Tri City News

Tri-City commuters will have to wait until 2014 — six years from now and five years later than originally planned — before they will be able to board the Evergreen Line.

As well, what transit technology will be used and where it will run still have to be worked out following Premier Gordon Campbell’s $14-billion transit announcement Monday, which offered general assurances but few details on the future of the planned light rail transit line to Coquitlam.

“I’ll have more to say about that towards the end of the month,” said Transportation Minister Kevin Falcon, who said he is lobbying the federal government to match the province’s $400 million funding commitment and plans to meet with northeast sector mayors in the coming weeks to hash out further details on the long-awaited transit line.

The route and technology, which has been the subject of much speculation in recent months, was approved two years ago by TransLink. It’s supposed to be an 11 km LRT system starting at Lougheed Town Centre in Burnaby and travelling at street level through Port Moody to Douglas College in Coquitlam; 12 stations and a tunnel under Clarke Road are part of the plans.

Maps used in Monday’s announcement appeared to confirm the route but a higher price tag — $1.4 billion instead of the previously planned $970 million — could either be a sign that SkyTrain or something similar is the chosen technology or simply a more realistic assessment of costs.

Falcon said he always doubted the original time-line and budget figures for Evergreen and his staff have spent the last year pressing TransLink for more details on its business plan.

“The budget numbers and time-frame were never particularly realistic,” he said. “That was always one of my concerns. And that’s why we demanded a business case. It showed there’s some real problems with the plan that’s in place.”

With $400 million from the province and another $400 million coming from TransLink, there remains a $600-million funding gap.

Port Moody Mayor Joe Trasolini said he wants the federal government to put its financial cards on the table — but with no strings attached.

Trasolini said he is concerned that the federal government prefers Bombardier-built SkyTrain technology for political reasons and will force it on the region.

“Their role is to be a partner in the funding and not undoing 15 years of planning,” Trasolini said.

Still, he said he was otherwise impressed with the premier’s transit plan and not concerned about the later completion date for the Evergreen Line because it won’t conflict with Murray-Clarke Connector construction, which should be finished by 2010.

Yet another construction delay for the Evergreen Line also didn’t concern Coquitlam Mayor Maxine Wilson, who said the province’s transit plan makes a transit line to Coquitlam the province’s top priority — ahead of the Broadway Line to UBC, which has been championed by Vancouver Mayor Sam Sullivan.

She called the transit plan ambitious and a futuristic solution to attracting a “creative class” of workers who will make the region economically and environmentally sustainable.

As for route and technology, Wilson said she’s just as much in the dark as everyone else and is waiting for provincial confirmation.

“I’m just guessing like everyone else,” she said. “My message is: Just get it to Douglas College.”

Local MP James Moore said the federal government continues to work with the province on funding for infrastructure as part of an ongoing partnership.

“Premier Campbell’s announcement today, coupled with the federal government’s Building Canada Plan and other initiatives, mean effective action on B.C.’s infrastructure needs,” Moore said in a written statement.

The premier also announced a doubling of the number of buses and new high-capacity rapid buses, which will get more passengers to their destination more quickly. Two of nine rapid bus routes would serve northeast riders: Highway 1 connecting Lougheed Station to exchanges in Surrey and Langley across the Port Mann Bridge; and Highway 7 from the Evergreen Line in Coquitlam across the new Golden Ears Bridge.

The $1.2-billion rapid bus project would be in place by 2020 but some routes could start as early as 2011.


— with files from Janis Warren