Council must watch bridge project costs even more closely

Victoria taxpayers must be protected from further spiraling costs

So we are now faced with a Johnson Street Bridge replacement that started out at $64 million and has now hit almost $93 million. And as the costs have escalated, what the citizens will get for their money has shrunk.

Council had little choice but to accept the cost overruns and allow staff to send the project out to three preliminary tenders.

The question is, what happens in June if the tender responses come back with still more cost increases? What happens if tenders come in at $110 million, $125 million, or worse, $150 million? Or, what happens if the bids come back with further reductions in the project?

Council has been given assurances that costs won’t escalate further. However, they and the public were given these assurances in the past, only to be proven wrong time and time again – which is not a surprise, when you consider that this “iconic” style of lift-bridge has not been built before.

I maintain that council and the taxpayers, who are bearing all the risk in this project, cannot afford to be in the same predicament in June when the tenders come back. The city needs to be developing a backup plan now as a matter of foresight and prudent management. Council is exposing the citizens to just too much financial risk.

Such a backup plan will cost money to develop. However, can council and the city afford not to invest the money, and risk finding itself in an intolerable situation in 90 days, once again with its back to the wall and no option but to press on regardless? And would not a backup plan also send a clear message to the project team, designers and contractors that the city will not accept any further risk – either of increased cost or of a decreased project?

Paul Brown

Victoria