Port Moody Council fuming over Murray-Clarke Connector


The fabled Murray-Clarke Connector on the west side of Port Moody has been a sore point with Port Moody Council almost since the completion of the CPR. In 1983 the province thought it would be a good idea to widen the route to 4 lanes to accomodate increasing traffic. Today in 2010 there are a few more people living in the northern Tricities, and the Murray-Clarke connector remains a pipe dream.

Today the City of Port Moody released a statement that they will be exploring the viability of making a legal claim against Translink. From the release…

Mayor Joe Trasolini says that “this project was part of an approved project to widen the Barnet Highway which took place east and west of Port Moody, leaving our residents to cope with the bottleneck through our community.” Provincial funding that was committed to the project was later diverted to other projects outside of Port Moody. For the past decade, Port Moody Council’s top priority has been to get first the provincial government, and now TransLink, to finish the project. Mayor Trasolini adds that the Council decision to look at legal options follows years of frustration. “Council has been very aggressive in advancing the design and construction of the Murray Clarke Connector. We are ready to do our part. We are, frankly, fed up with ongoing delays and TransLink’s failure to follow through on its commitments.”

Two years ago TransLink passed a resolution allocating $46 million toward the $50 million cost of a new overpass. The City has already set aside funds to contribute the remaining $4 million, and paid for the preliminary design. In January 2008, when Port Moody Council attempted to award the detailed design contract TransLink did not approve the award.

TransLink claims to no longer have its share of the funding that was committed by Board resolution in December 2007. In addition, TranskLink says that funding for the Murray-Clarke Connector is now tied to the approval of a vast funding package in support of its ten-year plan.

Mayor Trasolini says that with the project at a standstill, “TransLink has left Port Moody with no other choice!” The Council resolution authorized staff to seek a legal opinion about the viability of a legal claim against TransLink and/or other options related to commitments for the Murray-Clarke Connector.

Here’s the long and winding timeline for the Murray-Clarke saga…

  • 1983 Province & Port Moody complete Core Area Transportation Study.
    Highway 7A waterfront bypass recommended.
  • 1990 Barnet – Hasting People Moving Project announced.
    “I am confirming the construction of the Port Moody Bypass…” Ministry of Transportation and Highways letter.
  • 1993 “The Murray -Clarke Connector will be a new four-lane…” B.C. project office letter.
    Barnet–Hasting project starts.
  • 1994 Murray-Clarke Connector is delayed for the 1st time.
  • 1995 West Coast Express construction starts.
  • Murray-Clarke Connector is delayed for the 2nd time.
  • Formation of GVTA. Murray-Clarke Connector is orphaned.
  • 2003 Murray-Clarke Connector is adopted by GVTA.
    Project added to GVTA Financial Plan with 1997 estimate.
  • 2003 TransLink allocates $¼ million for alignment design.
  • 2004 City undertakes Project Definition & Design.
  • 2005 City staff began negotiations with TransLink, who approved funding for this project earlier this year. $25 million was set aside by TransLink for this project. TransLink approved funding for preliminary design. Associated Engineering (BC) Ltd. was awarded the design component of the project.
  • Port Moody completed the preliminary design and project definition for the Murray-Clarke Connector including a comparison of the Clarke Street and Vintner Street options. Report submitted to TransLink. Council requested full funding (approximately $50 millions in 2006 dollars), including inflationary adjustments, to be approved by TransLink for completion of the Murray-Clarke Connector using the Vintner alignment option.
  • TransLink allocates $60,000 to do a value engineering study.
  • 2008 TransLink includes the MCC project as part of mid-level option in its draft supplemental budget.
  • 2008 TransLink moves the project to the $450M “On-Track” option in its proposed supplemental budget.
  • 2009 TransLink adopts a 2010 Funding Stabilization Plan that does not include the MCC.
  • 2010 TransLink leaves the MCC out of its proposed 2011 Base Plan.

One would have to speculate that after seeing all of the new bridges going up around the Tricities, Port Moody is feeling overlooked. As we are seeing with the ongoing saga over the Evergreen Line, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of love lost between the City of Port Moody and Translink. The City of Port Moody has been a little strange throughout this process of trying to get better transportation. Their zero-growth official community plan and their silence on the Evergreen Line Western Station makes for a fairly inconsistent message to the public and other levels of government.

Should the City of Port Moody look to sue Translink? Is the City of Port Moody going about this the right way? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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Comments

  1. Thank you for this post.

    Originally, a rapid-transit line going into Coquitlam was intended to be part of the new Millennium Line that was completed in 2002. As the costs of the project rose, however, the plans to build the extension to the new line into Coquitlam were halted once again.

    The Evergreen Line alignment from Lougheed Town Centre through Port Moody to Coquitlam Centre was chosen with the unanimous support of municipal councils, and mainly based on its ability to satisfy the objectives of the Livable Region Strategic Plan (LRSP). In the case of Port Moody that support was contingent on the construction of the Murray Connector, which was proceeding after having been approved and funded by TransLink in December 2007.

    In July 2008, the Province through the Ministry of Transportation assumed the role of Proponent for the Evergreen Line.

    “The City of Port Moody has been a little strange throughout this process of trying to get better transportation”:

    Based on the ALRT technology decision and the slightly modified alignment the proposed western station at Albert and Barnet was inexplicably shifted to Queens Street. The Province and TransLink tell us that this shift is what the City of Port Moody requested.

    Port Moody Station (known as the West Coast Express (WCE) station, where transference is strictly limited to morning and afternoon commute times and the cause of much congestion) unaccountably remains a station location, again at the request of Port Moody City Hall, according to the Province and TransLink.

    When the TransLink Mayor’s Council voted on October 26, 2009, against increasing funding necessary to pursue the Evergreen Line expansion in 2010, the motion also rescinded the funding allocation previously made for the Murray Clarke Connector project, which Port Moody has underway.

    Should the City of Port Moody look to sue Translink? Absolutely! Just a minute though, how did Mayor Joe vote on our behalf?

    It is my opinion that the need for a station as originally identified (way back when) in close proximity to the Barnet Highway, is the most important station location second only to the proposed station at Ioco and the Barnet Highway. Okay, so I live on the west side.

    Without the City’s aggressive participation it is quite likely that a major mistake in public transportation planning will be made; namely the absence of a western Port Moody SkyTrain station, or worse, a misplaced station. In addition, the failure to include the simultaneous construction of the Murray Clarke Connector could prove to be an even worse mistake.

    You ask, “Is the City of Port Moody going about this the right way?”

    The City of Port Moody has failed to implement changes to its land use designations to accommodate the transit-oriented development (TOD) and densification that typically occurs in proximity to such a planned transportation corridor. They have also ignored the vast OCP input collected from Port Moody residents.

    “Their zero-growth official community plan and their silence on the Evergreen Line Western Station makes for a fairly inconsistent message to the public and other levels of government.” No kidding! This also eliminates a major source of revenue to the City.

    At the May 27, 2010, Council meeting, staff were given direction to start a process to withdraw Murray Street from the regional Major Road Network which means that maintenance funding to the City from TransLink will also be withdrawn.

    If alternate sources of funding are not already in place, will we be seeing cuts in services or increases in taxes to offset the loss of revenue?

    The values established by our City claim, “We are a bridge from COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT to action”, and, “We make things happen, guiding change WITH and for the community”.

    Oh really? Me thinks it’s time for Mayor Joe and Co to finally start listening to us and acting accordingly.

    • Wow, fantastic comment Neil, thank you very much. You’re obviously very knowledgable about the subject, and it’s so important that people are informed about what’s going on with our regional planning. This fight will shape the future of Port Moody and the Tricities for generations to come, so the more we know the better.

  2. MikeClay says:

    While everyone in our city , and most of our region, are frustrated around the issue of transporation infrastructure, there are a number of inaccurate or misleading statements in your posting and the follow up commentary.

    First and foremost, the overwhelming feedback from residents, every day in port moody, including the OCP process, is that we have grown too much/too fast, and transportation infrastructure has failed to keep pace with growth, creating transporation headaches for our residents. Throughout the OCP review process residents expressed opposition to further density/population increases without addressing the infrastructure issues. I cannot find anywhere in our 2006 OCP Blank Slate session where anyone cited DEVELOPMENT or GROWTH TAKING PLACE TO SLOWLY as their concern ! This feedback is certainly not being ignored, as is suggested, although this clearly is not the feeback the author is referring to.

    It should be noted, just as a matter of fact, not opinion, that you omitted in your timeline the 73% opposition in the 2004 referendum to a skytrain route through Moody Centre. And the significant investment made in the community on bringing all residents into the conversation around LRT and the need for transit in our region.

    There’s an old saying that I think aptly applies to the position taken by city council on the Murray Clarke, Skytrain and the OCP: Fool me once, shame on you , fool me (3, 4, 5 , 6 ?) times, shame on me !

    Port Moody shaped a community over the past 20 years , doubling our population, based on density in the Newport area around the promised lrt of the RTP-2000 project, and also the Barnet people moving project of the late 1980’s. Both of those projects , as everyone knows, evaporated – but the development of what is now Newport, Klahanie and Suterbrook are all in place, as is Heritage Mtn. Thousands of new residents added to the community, and the vision has been referenced as a model for compact growth – and the future of suburban density – based on transit oriented development. The only missing piece is the transit ! The current skytrain proposition is now the 3rd time lrt has been planned/promised for the NE Sector since the late 1990’s, and the Murray Clarke Connector is celebrating a 20 year anniversary – pardon me if I don’t put on my party hat to celebrate either of these. Perhaps everyone is forgetting the committment at the time the Canada Line project was pushed forward that it would only be built in conjunction with or following the Evergreen line (also missing from your timeline). Last I looked the Canada Line was carrying tens of thousands of commuters each day while the Evergreen line consists of a number of trailers in a parking lot in Coquitlam.

    Are we now expected to further densify the western end of Port Moody on the hope that THIS TIME maybe we won’t have the rug pulled out from under us ? How will Neil and the rest of Port Moody residents feel if we add another 3-4000 residents and the transportation infrastructure promises fail us yet again ? We know over the past two weeks that Translink has stated repeatedly that they do NOT have funding for their portion of the Evergreen Line and they are now classifying it as an unfunded expansion project.

    Amending our OCP, should the Evergreen Line/Murray Clarke projects start actually moving forward to construction, is a simple process – but undoing development should the line NOT move forward is impossible. How could city council turn their back on the overwhelming message from the community that further densification is not acceptable without improvements in the transporation infrastructure ?

    There is nothing inconsistent in the messaging from the city council and the zero growth statements in the OCP – inconsistency would be leading on developers and then not seeing the infrastructure built and trying to back-track on decisions. The densification to ‘warrant’ transporatation infrastructure has already taken place, over the past two decades – the Evergreen line is NOT about supporting future development anymore, its about serving the existing population of the NE Sector.

    Has Port Moody City Council been ‘silent’ on the Evergreen Line ? Is the basis of this statement because we don’t write letters to the editor of the local newspaper ?

    The Port Moody position on station locations is clearly stated, since 2000, as favouring one near Queen’s St and one near Moray St. This was re-affirmed in 2008. There is no reason for anyone to question our committment in this regard – it is in black and white and the Evergreen project management team is reminded of our ‘list’ on every opportunity. And we remind the project team when they are deviating from that list. We are working hard to move both of these projects forward, and to keep a positive environment with Translink and the Evergreen project team, to achieve delivery of both projects for the best benefit of our community.

    It also is not an ‘inexplicable change’ in station locations, to Queens St, as referenced above. When LRT (vs. Skytrain) was the preferred technology for the line, the city , through the community based LRT task force, working with Translink, favoured 4 stations including one at the tunnel portal near Albert St. However, when the province changed the technology and took over the project, they reverted to 2 stations in their design. This was not a decision of Port Moody council or Translink.

    It also is NOT a decision of Port Moody city council to co-locate a station at the existing WCE station, as is stated above.

    The Port Moody ‘conditions’ for acceptance of skytrain through our community also include that the murray clarke connector should be built, prior to, and accomodate the skytrain alignment – we worked very hard through the 2005-2008 time period to have this project funded by Translink and had this committment in Dec 2007, before the translink governance model was changed and this project subsequently dropped from the priority list. The Murray-Clarke is now even more important with the growth taking place to the EAST of Port Moody, specifically Burke-Mtn and Pitt Meadows/Maple Ridge (now nicely directed into our city on the new Pitt River Bridge) – the reality is that transit ridership targets rarely exceed 20% and our local reality is in the 15% range on a good day.. This means that if 25,000 people are added to the Burke Mtn area through new development, we can count on 10,000 or so to be commuting via some form of personal vehicles, and in all likelihood, a good portion of those will come through Port Moody. If addtiional population growth is going to take place in the eastern part of the region, which it certainly will should those communities adopt policies as Neil advocates in his comments, it has to be remembered that only the minority of those people will use transit, so an even larger burden will be put on a road network that was deemed insufficient in the 1980s ! Again, make no mistake, the Murray Clarke is not identified as a way to service new population growth, but the traffic that already existing in 1990 and continues growing.

    Our investigation into the legal obligations of Translink regarding the Murrary Clarke connector is based on the legislation governing regional transportation infrastructure (SCBTA), and on the reality that this project was acknowleged as necessary for the REGION, funded, and (what we consider) a legal agreement entered into between the city and Translink. We feel we have held up our end, as expressed by the mayor in the press release, and we expect other parites to a legal agreement to do the same. As a council, I feel it is our obligation to do this on behalf of our residents and taxpayers. It may be determined that there is no legal agreement or foundation for a potential claim, but we cannot just let this slide by – Why should the residents or Port Moody continue to be the brunt of broken promises and a “bad joke” on transportation ?

    The ‘conditions’ for sktytrain also call on Translink to explore opportunities (with the city) for transit oriented development around station locations. Once those station locations are firmly identified and the project begins actually moving forward there is ample opportunity for the city and translink to explore opportunities for development in those areas (much as what is occuring in the Brentwood area in Burnaby, albeit to a lesser extent ; development that for the most part occurred following construction of the line, as it did in most areas on the initial Expo line)

    Lastly, as every taxpayer should be able to confirm, growth does not lead to decreased taxes. Although Port Moody has one of the most responsible tax regimes,over the past several years, in the lower mainland , and the province, our taxes continue to rise in excess of inflation, on a per capita basis. Development levies can help to soften the impact of tax increases, but this is generally only temporary as the cost of servicing the new residents may take 2-5 years to show up as buget pressures. This is not unique to Port Moody. Increasing population has not led to lower taxes or revenue windfalls for the municpality as many would suggest. Increased population brings increased demand for city services such as fire, police, and other city services, and multi-family development is straining our public infrastructure as families are looking to public spaces / community facilities to accomodate their lifestyles. Over the past 7 years, while the city has grown, predominantly via multi family, higher density development, costs for policing have risen over 60%, the size (and cost) of the fire deparment has doubled, and utility fees in particular have seen tremendous increases as the regional infrastructure for water, sewer and waste management are being pushed well beyond their capacity and incurring significant costs for upgrades and replacement. We have incurred captial expenditures of over $ 25 million for expansion of the recreation complex, over $ 8 million for a new police building, and are looking outward to a projected $ 10 million or more for a new firehall. This is a significant amount of money in a city with total tax revenues in the $ 25 million range. And we still have not addressed the many demands for increased library space, parks improvements, recreation opportunities, seniors housing and programs and services for youth.

    Additional population will bring additional expenses – expenses in excess of the addtional revenues the new tax revenue will generate – lets not fool ourselves about that. Every muncipality in Canada, and in fact North America, is wrestling with the same problems – demand for services vs. demand for limited tax increases.

    There are no simple solutions to the evolution of the region and our community, and there are many opinions in our community that are in stark contrast, and complete opposition, to each other. There are many people, far more qualified than I, who have sought answers to our regional transporation issues and regional growth objectives, but they have not found any ‘silver bullet’ or, frankly, “bronze” , “chrome” or “aluminum” bullet solutions. The one area of agreement is that we have too many people for the infrastructure that we have – so surely , adding more people is NOT the solution.

    Our role on city council is to find the balance, and to strive for the best community we can have for EVERYONE – whether they live in a heritage house in Moody Centre, an apartment in College Park, a tower in Newport Village, or a townhouse on heritage mountain. Or anywhere else in the city. The opinions of ALL residents are heard and have been included in the development of our new OCP, our position on minimal growth, and our committment to re-visit the OCP when transporation infrastructure becomes a reality.

  3. Ruth Antoski says:

    ANYWAY…obviously these things aren’t exactly right around the corner. What I want to know is, why can’t the Clarke/Murray connector be changed, during commuting times, to a one way bridge (evening commute only maybe?)? Why can’t we turn Clarke centre lanes into one or more counter flow lanes during commuting times (much like the Lions Gate bridge)? It seems to me that if the bridge where one way only (going from Clarke to Murray) during the evening, with the left turn lane from Clarke moving into the connector’s west lane and northbound Moody Street traffic moving into the east lane (with no left turn access onto Clarke) then traffic would flow nicely. THE TRAFFIC LIGHT at Clarke and Moody is the REAL PROBLEM. There is already a “right turn only” during high traffic times when coming off the connector onto Clarke in the a.m. (restricting access from the connector onto Moody) and that helps a lot! Is there any good reason why we can’t restrict access in pretty much the same way, heading east bound in the evening? It seems to me a couple cans of yellow paint, a few signs, and several arrow lights indicating which direction the counter flow lane/access to the connector is moving would do a world of good to get things flowing better now. I realize everyone wants a permanent solution but I’m sick of waiting and frankly, it may never happen. Has this ever been discussed anywhere?

    • That’s not a bad idea, you would probably have to restrict the street parking on Murray St, as you would now have two lanes of traffic going down to one in front of Rocky Point Park instead of on the bridge. I’m no traffic expert, and I’m sure there are more issues with doing counter-flow lanes than we are thinking of, but it would be a start.

      • Ruth Antoski says:

        Upon reflection, the problem would probably be solved without going so far as making the bridge one way or adding counterflow lanes. If the light at Moody from Clarke street was a continuous green and the lane coming off the bridge was again right turn only (like it is in the morning) and access from Moody was either restricted entirely or turned into a stop/yield (for traffic onto the bridge but with no left turn access at all onto Clarke from Moody) then we would have continuous flow onto the bridge without stopping! In my view, the real problem is the red light at Clarke and Moody and this would solve that issue. Counterflow lanes would be unnecessary and the bridge could remain two way. It seems so simple and I don’t see much money being needed besides signs and some traffic light manipulation.

  4. R.I.P. Neil, and thanks for all of your efforts towards getting the right things done for the west end of Port Moody.

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