The cost of the new Pattullo Bridge is pegged at $1.6 billion, according to a mid-October briefing note to the NDP minister responsible for TransLink.
Premier John Horgan, Transportation and Infrastructure Minister Claire Trevena and Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister Selina Robinson will green light the New Westminster-to-Surrey spanner on Feb. 16. They are expected to announce the government, not TransLink, will be responsible for replacing the decaying 80-year-old bridge. A source close to the project also told theBreaker that the contract to build the new bridge is expected to include a community benefits clause that may require, among other things, a quota of aboriginal apprentices.
The briefing note, obtained by theBreaker under the freedom of information law, was written after the government received TransLink’s business case for the new four-lane bridge, which would be expandable to six lanes. Jan. 1, 2023 would be the target for opening.
“The Mayors’ Vision indicated that the bridge replacement would cost approximately $980 million,” said the briefing note to Robinson. “TransLink currently estimates the Pattullo Bridge replacement would cost approximately $1.6 billion.”
The project is not eligible for funding from the Public Transit Infrastructure Fund, but TransLink was exploring options with the federal infrastructure bank and Trade Transportation Corridor Initiative. Horgan and Trevena threw TransLink a curveball last summer when they kept a campaign promise and abolished tolls on the Port Mann and Golden Ears bridges.
“TransLink is also looking for a subsidy to replace the tolls that were eliminated Sept. 1,” said the briefing note. “The transit authority had been counting on tolls to pay for up to two-thirds of the cost of the new Pattullo, which was estimated at about $1 billion in 2014. The amount of the subsidy has not been determined.”
Late last year, Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan was voted to replace Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson as chair of the Mayors’ Council and a member of the TransLink board of directors. Corrigan suggested the Pattullo be the top priority, before TransLink builds the Broadway subway or Surrey light rail transit.
The cost estimates for the two rail projects were censored from the documents provided to theBreaker. However, one of the briefing notes was created Dec. 14 and quotes a Dec. 13 story by theBreaker about the ongoing cost secrecy.
Under the heading “Escalating Costs,” an aide to Robinson summarized theBreaker story that was headlined “Mayors got secret update last year on TransLink mega project costs, but kept public in the dark,”
“The story is based on internal documents released through FOI that suggest the estimated costs for the megaprojects have risen significantly. Final costs will not be determined until TransLink submits its final business cases and will be shared publicly when they are approved (estimated late February).”
In 2014, the Surrey project was estimated at $2.21 billion and Broadway $1.98 billion. TransLink warned that costs have increased due to rising costs of property, labour, materials and equipment.
A briefing note said that $300,000 is being spent on so-called due diligence panels of handpicked experts who were hired to review TransLink’s business cases. The panels were struck in January 2017 to review what is officially called the Surrey L Line and the Millennium Line Broadway Extension.
“The focus of each panel was to review current alignment, geotechnical considerations, design and methods of construction; property acquisition; costs estimates; and formation and content of business case in relation to Treasury Board expectations,” the briefing note said.
Former SNC-Lavalin executive vice-president James Burke and ex-B.C. Deputy Finance Minister Peter Milburn are on both panels. Engineer Les Elliott is the third member of the Surrey panel, while veteran SkyTrain construction engineer and transit tunnelling specialist Jeff Hewitt are on the Broadway panel.
Their recommendations were censored from the briefing notes.
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