Burrard Bridge bike lane cost hits $63m million

Wednesday, April 30th, 2008

Frances Bula


Improvements are planned for the overcrowded Burrard Bridge to make it safer for cyclists and pedestrians. Photograph by : Ward Perrin, Vancouver Sun files

The bill for renovating the Burrard Bridge to make it safer for cyclists and pedestrians has risen to $63 million, four times what it was six years ago.

That has forced Vancouver‘s engineering department to ask for more money in the capital plan being set for the next three years — something that city voters will get to approve in the November election — at a time when the city is facing unprecedented demands already on its capital budget.

“We are in a real crunch,” said city manager Judy Rogers, who is facing requests for new firehalls, community centres, and police buildings, along with the enormous Burrard Bridge bill and rising costs for routine sewer, water and street maintenance.

Community-centre advocates have already started raising the alarm about the need to include spending on new community centres in the plan, especially the 50-year-old Marpole centre.

The city’s head of engineering, Tom Timm, said construction-cost increases are running at 10 to 12 per cent a year for projects.

“We’ve seen unusual inflation rates in all areas,” he said.

It’s all coming at the same time that the finance director is warning the city needs to set a limit on its capital-plan spending for the next three years if it doesn’t want to provoke significant tax increases.

The revised Burrard Bridge bill, however, is the biggest problem. The cost increase isn’t just because of construction inflation. Almost $8 million of the increase comes because it turns out that some parts of the redesign will be more expensive than originally thought.

Timm said the original estimate of $14.5 million was based on a conceptual design for the improved bridge, which will see the sidewalks expanded to the side of the bridge. Once engineers got into the details, they realized that they would have to spend more because the bridge can’t have any weight added to it, which requires coming up with lightweight railings and additions. As well, it will require a vehicle-crash barrier on the road.

Timm said it’s not a project the city can forgo.

The bridge is old and “chunks of concrete are falling off,” he said.

It’s the most heavily used bridge in the city for pedestrians and cyclists and they need more room. As well, there have been some serious accidents in the past as cyclists were pushed off the sidewalk into traffic because of crowded conditions.

The previous COPE council had suggested the city try an experimental shutdown of two lanes of the six-lane bridge for cyclists to see whether that might be a less-expensive solution than renovation, as well as requiring no visible changes to the bridge, which the city’s heritage advocates have fought to keep as is.

But there was a lot of controversy over that idea and the current Non-Partisan Association council killed the proposal in one of its first sessions after being elected in 2005.

© The Vancouver Sun 2008


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