Feb 6,2008 Tri City News

The $1.4 billion Evergreen Line is now a mega-project of similar proportions to the Canada Line and will be subject to the same scrutiny for private sector partnerships.

Preliminary analysis by Partnerships BC and TransLink found the Evergreen Line has all the qualifications necessary to make it a good candidate for a P3 (public private partnership), which could result in a private company doing everything from designing and building the line to financing, operating and even maintaining it.

The value to the public could be that the private company assumes any risks for costs overruns, said TransLink spokesperson Ken Hardie, and, in the case of the $2-billion Canada Line, the opening date is fixed and the private operator will run the system for a fixed price for 30 years.

“We’re getting a system built that will pay for itself,” Hardie said.

With the Canada Line, which will link Richmond, Vancouver and Vancouver International Airport, a request for proposals was issued and bids that came in were evaluated against the costs of a publicly-funded project, and it was determined that a P3 would be cheaper and less risky than a project funded and managed solely by the public sector.

The company chosen to build and maintain the Canada Line is InTransitBC while TransLink owns the line, sets the fares and monitors system performance.

Last week, Transportation Minister Kevin Falcon said the procurement process for Evergreen could start this fall, which means it will likely be spring or fall 2009 before a builder is identified, especially if that builder will also be running the system.

There is still a chance, however, that TransLink will operate the automated line.