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UPDATED: Build Murray-Clarke Connector now, says Trasolini

Traffic in Port Moody is reaching untenable levels and unless the provincial government steps up with funding for the Murray-Clarke Connector things could get a lot worse.

Traffic in Port Moody is reaching untenable levels and unless the provincial government steps up with funding for the Murray-Clarke Connector things could get a lot worse.

That was the message from Port Moody-Coquitlam NDP byelection candidate Joe Trasolini Monday morning, when he, flanked by party leader Adrian Dix, called on the Liberal government to make the project a priority.

"The north-east sector is demanding that the provincial government... partner with TransLink and build this much needed link," he said. "If it is not done now this area can look forward to further tie-ups and further problems in this narrow corridor."

As mayor of Port Moody, Trasolini championed the project but he is now making the connector a byelection issue.

He said the road project, which entails widening Murray Street to four lanes and connecting it with Clarke Road and the Barnet Highway, should have been completed years ago, before the influx of residents on Heritage Mountain, Newport, Suterbrook, Westwood Plateau and Burke Mountain.

With work on the Evergreen Line about to get underway, Trasolini said now would be an ideal time to build the Murray-Clarke Connector.

"Cities like Port Moody and Coquitlam, we spent millions of dollars upgrading roads leading up to the connection and all those millions are going to waste," he said. "If there was a perfect time to build it it would be now."

Trasolini added that four years ago, when the previous TransLink board considered the project, it was expected to cost about $50 million. In today's dollars he believes the number would be closer to $60 million.

Dix told reporters at Trasolini's campaign office that the provincial government has drastically underfunded infrastructure across the region. The road system currently in place was designed for a community with a much smaller population, he added.

"The problem is that we dramatically built out the community without building an adequate road here," Dix said. "The result is everyday traffic chaos - traffic chaos that is certainly going to get worse in the coming years."

B.C. Transportation Minister Blair Lekstrom told The Tri-City News that he was confused by Trasolini's comments. The connector, he said, falls under the purview of TransLink and it is the regional transit authorities that must decide how to pay for the project and when to move forward.

"The Murray-Clarke Connector is part of TransLink's Major Road Network," he said. "They would be responsible for funding and the construction of that."

The province, he added, is currently working with TransLink and the region to find a long-term solution to the transportation authority's funding needs. After that process is complete the organization will be in a better position to assess its priorities, he said.

Current plans for the Evergreen Line accommodate the eventual construction of the Murray-Clarke Connector and Lekstrom said he believes the project will be completed eventually.

Port Moody Mayor Mike Clay said that while the Murray-Clarke Connector would alleviate traffic through Port Moody in the short term it could have other unintended consequences, he said.

Building more roads may only serve to attract more drivers and Clay said he is also concerned about using land along Port Moody's waterfront for a four-lane thoroughfare.

"It is bigger than one street," he said. "We have an awful lot of people that are concerned that if you build a road it will fill up. If we build a four-lane highway it may only serve to attract more drivers."

Still, Clay did not say he was against the construction of the Murray-Clarke Connector.

The city is working with TransLink in a visioning exercise, which he said will find solutions to some of the transit issues facing Port Moody. Until the work is complete Clay said he is keeping an open mind on all transit project, including the Murray-Clarke Connector.