TransLink say no to Murray-Clarke

Port Moody may have to learn how to do without the Murray-Clarke Connector after TransLink said the $69 million project was too costly. Some hope the Evergreen Line, when it opens in 2015, will take some people off the roads and reduce traffic gridlock. - TRI-CITY NEWS FILE PHOTO
Port Moody may have to learn how to do without the Murray-Clarke Connector after TransLink said the $69 million project was too costly. Some hope the Evergreen Line, when it opens in 2015, will take some people off the roads and reduce traffic gridlock.
— image credit: TRI-CITY NEWS FILE PHOTO

TransLink dealt a heavy blow to Port Moody city council Tuesday night when the transit authority officially tabled its assessment of the Murray-Clarke Connector project.

TransLink has rejected funding for the proposed overpass connecting Murray and Clarke streets, saying in its report that the estimated $69-million capital cost of the connector and its attendant maintenance costs would have to drop by at least 65% before the project would be viable.

Murray-Clarke has been on successive Port Moody city councils’ to-do lists since 1983 and the city has put up funding to help build the connector, but the explicit support of the province and now of TransLink have twice proven short-lived.

The sitting Port Moody council has made the Murray-Clarke Connector a linchpin in its bargaining with TransLink and Metro Vancouver while hashing out agreements on the Evergreen Line and Metro’s regional growth strategy.

Port Moody council maintains a “no-growth” policy, refusing any new development in the city and, until now, refusing  to allow the Evergreen Line rapid transit system to go ahead without a commitment from TransLink to build Murray-Clarke.

But with a mayors’ council agreement reached on covering the remaining funding for Evergreen Line with a regional gas tax, Port Moody council may be divided on whether to continue digging in their heels on Murray-Clarke.

Coun. Gerry Nuttall says it’s a lost cause.

“Our position has always been that the [Evergreen Line and Murray-Clarke Connector] are one project and that they should build them both,” Nuttall told The Tri-City News. “But I think we’ve tried as hard as we can to get the Murray-Clarke Connector and we’re not getting any response so it’s time to move on.”

Coun. Meghan Lahti called TransLink’s rejection of the Murray-Clarke overpass “mind-boggling,” and said the connector is imperative not only to Port Moody commuters but to the whole Metro Vancouver region to alleviate traffic congestion in the city caused by regional east-west traffic.

“Considering that they’ve already put the funding forward for it twice — the province did it and TransLink did it — for them to say now that there is no business case, I’m flabbergasted.”

Coun. Lahti called it “imperative” that council not roll over on Murray-Clarke and continue to fight TransLink over it.

“We have to push for this because the only other relief we have is the implementation of rapid transit which doesn’t look like it’s going to happen either,” Lahti said, clarifying that while there’s renewed hope for the Evergreen Line’s construction following the mayors’ agreement, she has always been and will remain skeptical on its future until the shovels are in the ground.

Coquitlam Mayor Richard Stewart was more optimistic about the short-term future of the Evergreen Line, posing with a gold-painted shovel and thanking the province and TransLink’s mayor’s council for the Evergreen Line agreement at last Thursday’s annual Mayors’ Mixer hosted by the Tri-Cities Chamber of Commerce.

Port Moody Mayor Joe Trasolini was less optimistic, however, telling the gathering of business owners that he hoped the recent progress on Evergreen Line wasn’t just a move by the provincial government to shore up votes before a looming provincial election, only to be forgotten about afterwards. As one like-minded chamber of commerce attendee pointed out Thursday: there was no dirt on Stewart’s shovel yet.

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