It's Time to Ignore the Voters Again

The tiniest surprise in Victoria came out: the bridge project is over budget. On the heels of finding out that the city has some Federal money coming, the MMM group announced that cost overruns will gobble up all of that assistance and take the current price tag to about $92,800,000.

Bridge up A one-time councilor and wouldbe activist has described those critical of the process as "armchair engineers". But those "armchair engineers" are much closer to being correct than the professional engineers. The City and its politicians sold us on the idea that the bridge would cost $77-million. They tried to get us to swallow that this project, unlike all projects, would not go over budget. Others think this will hit $150-million. I am going into the pool with a $120-million guess. As this is my money, I hope the other critics are wrong. I wish that the city staff who I fund felt as invested in this project as I do. Unfortunately, the more messed up the situation, the more we need the bureacrats to skid the bus away from the cliff and into the crowd of taxpayers who will cushion their impact.
I feel for the professional engineers, I actually do. In my profession, I have been asked for advice and I've also been refused the opportunity to put reservations, elaborations and concerns on the record. Then, I've seen a project go off course only to get the blame. They are being asked for answers. If they don't have the opportunity to pose the best course, they may be stuck approving the available course of action. Also, they may give their advice and concerns only for them to partially heeded.
This whole situation has filled me with FUDD: fear, uncertainty, disappointment and doubt.
I fear that we're going to get this bridge partially built, then run out of money, give up and tell people to use the Bay St. Bridge. Every time I drive under the overpass to nowhere at Spencer Road, I'm reminded that local municipalities can screw up and stick us with the bill.
This re-estimation means that the rehabilitation option that was spiked to $80-million to solidify opinion was $13 million cheaper than the current budget. Given that the bridge replacement is still in the planning stages, I am uncertain if they should put that option on the table again. With the rail bridge gone, refurbishment could now be a much cheaper option. If the ground is inherently unstable I'm uncertain as to why they're considering putting a bridge there at all.
These overruns come before the first girder has been bolted into place. It shows that the city administration is really missing the details. That's the core problem and it has to be addressed head on.
The estimates and hundreds of thousands of dollars in studies forgot basics like paint (a $5-million oopsy). Those estimates, so far, have also forgotten to include the 1-meter wide set of cables. This project is a Pandora's Box missed details and cost overruns. I maintain that the $77-million was a palatable and financially justifiable ceiling that voters would accept and financial planners would agree is affordable. It's also not the price of the bridge.
I am disappointed that the city staff and their contractors could not work inflation and market factors into their initial calculations. We're not talking about 30 years down the road: we're talking 3 years down the road in a global marketplace where China is hungry for steel, but Canada's dollars are worth much more too. It makes me doubt the remainder of the math they have in play. Not that math has a lot to do with engineering... yes, I'm lapsing into sarcasm: my personal share of the bridge is $1500. I think I deserve some leeway for sarcasm.

This project is a Pandora's Box missed details and cost overruns.

This project has shown myopia at City Hall top to bottom. It's an embarrassing microcosm of what's happened at City Hall in the last decade. Years of systemic abandonment of the maintenance of the current bridge. No building of a special fund to prepare for a bridge was supposedly identified as having 20 years left back in 1979. How can the City budget $1-million per year for "sustainability" but $0 for a "new bridge." How do they begin to dismantle a bridge without a solid plan in place for its replacement? They don't know the factors involved despite all of the assessment and all of the predictions from the previous assessments. They didn't account for cabling that has been there decades? They created a massive environmental impact with the cabling work to date and tried to sweep that under the rug, ignore it and stonewall information requests.

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