Taxpayers will bear burden of bridge

A few weeks back, Victoria council shot down a motion to alter the course of the Johnson St. Bridge replacement project

Taxpayers will bear burden of bridge

A few weeks back, Victoria council shot down a motion to alter the course of the Johnson St. Bridge replacement project. The proposal would have seen the city reject the futuristic chrome and glass of the current plan in favour of a more modest and presumably less expensive option. Immediately after rejecting that opportunity, council commissioned a report on the status of the bridge replacement, including a detailed and updated budget.

Council received the report last week. The result? A massive cost increase and a well-deserved “I told you so” from the three councillors who voted for the previous week’s proposal. Despite costs having skyrocketed $15.8 million to rest at a cool $92.8 million before construction has even begun, staff recommended that the city continue with the project as it is now, citing a recent boost in funding from the Union of B.C. Municipalities, which just manages to cover the increase in expenses.

Councillor Lisa Helps was not so easily swayed. “The question that no one is asking,” she said, “is what happens and who pays if the project goes over budget?” On her website, Helps links to a report from Denmark that says the average cost overrun of public infrastructure projects is 34 per cent of the original estimate. She goes on to calculate the tax impact on Victoria residents in the event of 15, 30, or 50 per cent overruns, coming up with a very likely tax increase of anywhere from 4.5 to 14.9 per cent each year for three years. In short, while the city can afford the current estimate, any future increases mean we’re stuck searching the couch cushions.

The other question that no one seems to be asking is how things got to where they are now. While the original cause of all this mayhem — the 2009 Delcan Report — is fading fast from our collective memory, the $35 million it quoted for replacing the ailing Blue Bridge should be at the forefront of public debate.

No matter how you look at it, the Johnson St. Bridge replacement seems to be more cloud than silver lining. With three years and over $10 million already invested, even if the city opts for frugality, the dream of a $35-million bridge will never be realized, which leaves taxpayers with no other option than to open their wallets and marvel at the clarity of hindsight. M

Just Posted

The City of Victoria is hoping to ring in the summer by celebrating local art and offering some distanced, live music to surprise people in parks, plazas and other public spaces. (Photo courtesy of the City of Victoria)
Live, pop-up concerts and local art being showcased in Victoria this summer

People will see surprise serenades at 16 locations throughout the summer

Pride Fest 2021
Get ready for Pride Fest!

The 2021 Victoria Pride Week Festival will include online events to connect and give visibility to Greater Victoria’s LGBTQ2S+ communities.

Kiss Me Kosher
Bring On the Laughter

Victoria International Jewish Film Festival plans feel-good event

JazzFest
Hot Days and Cool Music

The Victoria International JazzFest heats up its online venue

Gabriola Island artist Sheila Norgate is promoting the Digital Innovation Group’s art impact survey. (File photo)
Vancouver Island artists get behind regional arts impact study

Artists urged to use their stature to help put arts and culture super-region on the map

Most Read