Jan 16,2008 The Now News

Leneen Robb, Coquitlam NOW

Published: Wednesday, January 16, 2008

The province has agreed to provide $400 million in funding for the Evergreen Line as part of a $14-billion public transportation plan that includes more buses and a rapid transit extension to UBC.

But Port Moody Mayor Joe Trasolini, who was at the announcement Monday, told The NOW the cost of the Evergreen Line has ballooned to $1.4 billion -- which leaves a new funding gap of approximately $400 million.

"They're announcing cost escalation because they're talking about 2013 dollars," Trasolini said, explaining that the Evergreen Line is now scheduled to be built between 2010 and 2014.

Port Moody Mayor Joe Trasolini says the federal government has been getting 'a free ride' when it comes to paying for rapid transit.

Port Moody Mayor Joe Trasolini says the federal government has been getting 'a free ride' when it comes to paying for rapid transit.

Photo by Paul vanPeenen/NOW
"I think TransLink, the provincial government, have done their part, but in these major projects, as we all know, we need a federal partner -- and that's what it's come down to now."

Trasolini said he applauds the province for coming up with a comprehensive plan that addresses transit needs in areas such as Kelowna, Victoria and the Fraser Valley, and that the plan includes a provision to build the Evergreen Line before a rapid transit extension to UBC, which is slated for 2020.

But he said the province shouldn't be expected to contribute more cash toward the Evergreen Line when the federal government has been "getting a free ride."

"With the federal elections looming, I don't think that federal people can show their faces in the northeast sector, unless they partner with the province and TransLink to make the Evergreen Line a reality," he said.

Conservative MP James Moore (Port Moody-Coquitlam-Port Coquitlam) responded to The NOW's request for an interview on federal funding for the Evergreen Line by e-mailing a statement.

"Premier Campbell's announcement is focused, impressive and ambitious," Moore wrote.

"Our government has committed $33 billion to build Canada's infrastructure, one of the largest investments in Canada's history, and we look forward to working with Premier Campbell on B.C.'s infrastructure priorities."

Moore did not elaborate on whether the Conservatives plan to contribute more money toward Metro Vancouver's transit system.

Monday's announcement about the Evergreen Line was the third in recent years. During the past decade, area politicians have remained upbeat about the odds of federal money arriving to fund the line.

Although Trasolini acknowledged that without a $400-million cash infusion from the federal government, the line would not be built, he remained upbeat that rapid transit would eventually come to Coquitlam.

"It's good news about the Evergreen Line," he said of the announcement. "It's gotten a step closer."

Port Coquitlam Mayor Scott Young, meanwhile, said the province's transit vision is a useful planning tool, but criticized Victoria for its financial contribution.

"They take credit for what they call a $14-billion action plan which will take us out to 2020, but if you look a little bit more closely, of that $14 billion, only $4.75 (billion) of it is coming from the provincial government," Young said.

"The rest is coming from the federal government, TransLink and local government, so I think that has to be recognized that it's going to take all partners, all levels of government and our transportation authority here to make it a reality."

Young said Monday's announcement follows a pattern when it comes to rapid transit promises for the Tri-Cities.

"There seems to be a series of small steps, rather than taking that measure that's required in getting the announcement for it to be completed," he said.

"It's already overdue and we're very anxious out here as we've upheld our portion of the planning exercises in accepting growth and so, at this point, we'll remain cautiously optimistic."

Coquitlam Mayor Maxine Wilson could not be reached for comment.

The province's transit plan also includes two rapid bus routes through the Tri-Cities, one running along Highway 1, connecting Lougheed Station to exchanges in Surrey and Langley across the Port Mann Bridge, and the other running along Highway 7, from the proposed Evergreen Line across the soon-to-be-completed Golden Ears Bridge.