B.C.’s transportation ministry is inviting bids to design and build the most difficult highway project in the province’s history, with costs going up, mainly due to union-only construction and engineering changes.
The latest cost estimate for the fourth phase of the Kicking Horse Canyon widening project is $601 million, a $151 million increase since the 2016 project budget. The ministry estimates that $35 million of that is to implement the NDP government’s “community benefits agreement” for public construction projects, requiring worker membership in approved building trades unions.
Other increased costs include additional geotechnical and other engineering work, additional foundation supports for bridges and retaining walls, consultation with Indigenous communities and a bigger contingency fund due to the risk and complexity of the project.
Phase four is four-laning of the final section of Kicking Horse Canyon east of Golden, 4.8 km from West Portal to Yoho Bridge. Construction is slated to begin in the summer of 2020, with completion by the winter of 2023-24.
— Tom Fletcher (@tomfletcherbc) September 5, 2019
The cost increase also includes an additional $23 million in interest charges, since the project was initially approved with a $450 million price tag in 2015.
Transportation Minister Claire Trevena emphasized the safety improvement needed in the Kicking Horse Canyon, which has an accident rate three times the average for B.C. highways and areas with effectively no shoulder for vehicles to pull off in an emergency.
The average speed for the existing canyon road is 55-65 km/h, causing long backups behind transport trucks and recreational vehicles winding through the scenic route. The objective of the widening is to get the average speed up to 100 km/h as well as enhance safety.
The project will require closure of the Trans Canada Highway from Castle Junction to Golden for an estimated total of 15 weeks. A detour route using Highway 93 and 95 through Radium Hot Springs will add 104 km to the route, approximately an hour and a half of additional travel time.