Evergreen Line mentioned in budget

The Straight

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Finance Minister Jim Flaherty mentioned the proposed Evergreen Line once on page 143 of his 360-page budget document.But in the budget document, there is no explicit promise of federal funds for the proposed $1.4-billion rapid-transit line, which would link Lougheed Mall with Coquitlam City Centre via Port Moody.

That has upset Port Moody mayor Joe Trasolini, who said he hoped that Flaherty would include a $400-million federal contribution to the Evergreen Line as a “line item” in the budget.

“That doesn’t give me a sense of certainty that the funding for the Evergreen Line is there,” Trasolini told the Straight in a phone interview. “Clearly it is not.”

Flahery, however, promised money for the line in his speech. “In British Columbia, funds will flow for the Evergreen Transit Line and for a more modern railway station in Vancouver–key projects as the city prepares to host the Olympic Winter Games,” he said.

Under the headline “Priority Projects”, the budget document lists 13 infrastructure projects that “could” be cost-shared with provincial and territorial governments.

The Evergreen Line, which would through the riding of Canadian Heritage Minister James Moore, is the only B.C. project on the list.

“Budget 2009 announces major new initiatives that will further accelerate and increase the number of provincial, territorial and municipal infastructure projects,” the budget states. “As a result of these investments, the amount of federal funding available to provinces, territories and municipalities for infrastructure projects will hit more than $18 billion over the next two years, three times what was spent over the previous two years.”

The budget also mentions the creation of a new federal Crown corporation, PPP Canada Inc., which will administer a public-private partnerships fund. PPP Canada Inc. will invite applications to this fund in 2009-10, according to the budget.

B.C. Ministry of Transportation spokesperson Dave Crebo told the Straight last November that the federal government had earmarked $350 million to the Evergreen Line in addition to committing $67 million.

The B.C. government has committed $410 million, and TransLink will spend $400 million.

That leaves the project $170 million short of the $1.4-billion budget–if the feds step up to the plate with $417 million, as Crebo indicated.

However, Trasolini told the Straight today (January 27) that the feds have only committed $65 million, and the remaining $350 million is unconfirmed.

“There is no more certainty on this portion of the funding than there was before this budget,” Trasolini said.

Of course, with rapid-transit projects, early budgets are sometimes not in accordance with the final price tag. The public was often told that the Canada Line would cost between $1.5 billion to $1.7 billion. Now, we’re told it will cost $2 billion.

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