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Evergreen delay 'a bit of a joke,' says mayor

Port Moody Mayor Joe Trasolini warns that discontent over yet another delay in the completion of the Evergreen Line means politicians in the northeast sector are in trouble come election time. Trasolini was responding to comments made by B.C.

Port Moody Mayor Joe Trasolini warns that discontent over yet another delay in the completion of the Evergreen Line means politicians in the northeast sector are in trouble come election time.

Trasolini was responding to comments made by B.C. Transportation Minister Blair Lekstrom Tuesday that the long-awaited transit project would again be pushed back another year, to 2015. Lekstrom blamed the TransLink Mayors' Council for the delay, saying the group of civic leaders has yet to come up with a funding formula to pay for its portion of the project.

But Trasolini said when it comes to the Evergreen Line, voter frustration is directed at all levels of government.

"I wouldn't want to be a politician looking for re-election in the northeast sector," he said. "This has become a bit of a joke."

For too long, he added, promises have been made without any funding plan or source money to pay for the project.

"If there is no intention of resolving this, then say it is postponed indefinitely," he said. "If we are not willing to pay for [the Evergreen Line], then let's not promise it."'

In the last provincial election campaign, then-premier Gordon Campbell said the Evergreen Line would be running by 2014.

Premier Christy Clark has since taken over the BC Liberal party and said she is also committed to completing the project.

But Trasolini said he isn't convinced, and he believes even more delays are likely.

A supplemental financial plan that would outline new funding sources for TransLink was supposed to be ready by March. Trasolini said he has seen no sign work on the plan has even begun and there does not appear to be any consensus among municipal leaders on how to fund the transit authority in the long term.

Coquitlam Mayor Richard Stewart took a more conciliatory tone. He said leadership changes in Victoria have delayed the creation of a TransLink supplemental plan and the province is still committed to the project. He said local municipalities committed five years ago to paying for one third of the project and civic leaders need to live up to their obligations.

"I have no problem with the region paying for its share," Stewart said. "We committed to paying our share."

Stewart said other transit infrastructure projects, including the Broadway Extension and rail lines in the Fraser Valley, will not move forward until the Evergreen Line is built. For that reason, he added, Lower Mainland mayors should be more eager to get on board with finding a TransLink funding solution.

Still, Stewart acknowledges the process involved in building infrastructure projects is deeply flawed and will likely have to be changed.

"The governance structure that currently exists at TransLink is broken," he said. "It won't work in the long term. I am hoping that it will work in the short term because this is a very imminent decision."

Lekstrom did not return calls be The Tri-City News' deadline.

gmckenna@tricitynews.com