The Lewes Boulevard/Hospital Road intersection will see changes over the summer as work is done to install a new valve chamber for the city’s water system and add a permanent bus lane in and out of the Riverdale neighbourhood.
Council voted 6-1 on April 11 to add $400,000 to the bus lane project so the utility work can also be included and to deal with rising costs for the bus lane.
It brings the total project budget up to $1.145 million.
The cost for the bus lane work is now estimated at $1 million compared to the $745,00 it was originally expected to cost, with the valve chamber work making up the remainder.
A vote against
Coun. Ted Laking was the only member of council to vote against the budget change, arguing that while the work for the valve chamber is necessary and should go ahead, the bus lane project should be cancelled.
“I would propose that we cancel the bus lane project until such time that we can reassess and get those costs under control, and that we instead focus our efforts entirely on the valve replacement,” he said.
He was not able to get support for his proposal from other council members who pointed out funding for the project is anticipated to be available through the federal Canada community building fund (formerly gas tax funding), that there are efficiencies in combining the valve chamber work and bus lane installation into one project, and there are benefits to having a permanent bus lane along Lewes Boulevard including helping to deal with traffic congestion and a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions should more people be encouraged to take the bus.
Both Mayor Laura Cabott and Coun. Dan Boyd also pointed out that rising costs are a reality around the world right now and are not expected to decrease anytime soon.
Cabott said the rising costs don’t mean the city should stop investing in much needed infrastructure. She added that enhancing Whitehorse’s transit system is a priority for council.
Laking noted his concern that taxpayers will continue to be on the hook when projects come in over budget.
“I think that it’s time for us to take a serious look at what projects are going over budget and why they’re going so significantly over budget,” he said.
When it was clear other council members favoured moving forward with the project, Laking noted his hope that the city will make some headway on dealing with the costs of other projects moving forward.
In an April 12 press release, Laking reiterated his points and also noted similar issues over the proposed building of a new city hall.
“We need to remember that no matter what level of government funding comes from, it all comes from taxpayers,” Laking stated in his press release. “The idea that we should just keep spending money on over budget projects no matter what, is how we ended up with a city hall reconstruction project that has now gone even further over budget. Ultimately it will be taxpayers left holding the bag when these projects go over budget.”
City officials are considering how to proceed with that project after bids on the new city hall project came in millions over what was expected.
The project for the Lewes Boulevard/Hospital Road intersection will see the new valve chamber for the city’s water system replaced within the roadway.
As city engineer Taylor Eshpeter explained in an earlier report to council, the city moved forward with design work for a permanent bus lane along Lewes Boulevard following the success of a pilot bus lane project in 2018.
Along with work to build a permanent bus lane, an active transportation crossing at the intersection and improvements to the eastern side of the intersection are also planned.
As planning for the bus lane was underway, it was learned a valve chamber within the intersection had deteriorated to the point that an emergency repair was required. Temporary bracing was put in place in December to prevent short-term failure while staff looked at long-term solutions.
“Given that the valve chamber is located within the proposed limits of construction for the Lewes Boulevard bus lane project and the valve chamber’s implications to design of the Lewes Boulevard bus lane project, it was deemed most cost-effective and practical to include design and construction work for the valve chamber in the Lewes Boulevard bus lane project rather than through a standalone project,” Eshpeter explained in his report.
The work to the intersection is anticipated to get underway in the coming construction season.
Contact Stephanie Waddell at firstname.lastname@example.org