– Vancouver area Evergreen rapid transit line gets green light

Journal of Commerce

RICHARD GILBERT


It’s a whopper of an expense, but TransLink is pressing forward with plans for another rapid transit expansion project in the Lower Mainland.

The $1.4 billion Evergreen Line project will connect Coquitlam to Vancouver via Port Moody and Burnaby.

Construction of the 11 kilometre line is expected to begin in late 2010 and be completed in 2014.

The federal and provincial governments have contributed about $800 million.

However, TransLink, the regional transportation authority, is having difficulty finding the funds to maintain and expand transit services over the next 10 years.

Despite the bookkeeping shortfall, it’s full steam ahead on the project.

“We are still committed to starting construction on this project next year,” said Ken Hardie, TransLink director of communications.

“I hope that TransLink will come up with the region’s contribution in due course. If we use the Canada Line as an example, it is possible to get a project started without everybody’s money available at the same time.”

Some of the money could come from the $130 million expected from the recently approved three cents a litre gas tax hike, as well as fare and parking tax increases.

The regional transit authority has committed to pay $400 million of the line’s total construction costs.

Some media reported that the project could be delayed again, because of TransLink’s lack of funding.

“TransLink identified the need and agreed to go forward with the Evergreen line,” said Shirley Bond, B.C minister of transportation and infrastructure. “We expect TransLink to honour its commitment. There is work to be done, but this is not to say it won’t be built.”

The ministry will soon present the project’s preliminary design elements for public feedback. Input will be considered, along with technical and financial information, so the Evergreen Line project can refine its design.

This current round of open houses follows consultation on the proposed environmental assessment for the project.

Some of that feedback shows that local citizens are frustrated with its pace of development.

“This round will have been the third such session in about ten years,” said Cliff Van Alstyne, of the Citizens for Appropriate Evergreen Transit. “We have wasted sufficient time on geological, environmental and alignment studies to suffice the beginning of construction years ago, so lets stop the nonsense and get on with the construction phase.”

The Evergreen Line has been part of a regionally developed transportation plan for more than 15 years.

“Our executive committee, as well as many residents of Oakdale, have attended the meetings and provided copious opinions on the proposed Evergreen Line since the inception of the plan,” said Danae Dagg, president of the Oakdale Heritage Society, which represents 1,500 people in a community northwest of Burquitlam in Coquitlam.

“Now there is a request for us to attend yet another input meeting to reiterate our opinions and comments. How much input is needed to build this project and how many of us need to tell you just to build it, before the Evergreen Line becomes a reality?”

Other comments from the public show some people are more concerned about the social and economic impact of construction.

“In particular, we are concerned about vehicle and pedestrian access to many of the businesses along the North Road during construction,” said Andre Isakov, executive director of the Burnaby North Road Business Improvement Association. “We are highly concerned that the project and the construction process may reduce business, and as a result may force businesses to relocate, destroying the socio-economic fabric of our community.”

He’s concerned about noise pollution during construction and operation. Isakov is also worried that the concrete columns in the elevated structure will make the area less esthetically appealing and less pedestrian friendly.

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