Delays make bridge improvements so costly that plan may go to vote

Wednesday, April 30th, 2008

Ian Austin

The price of widening Vancouver‘s Burrard Street Bridge has quadrupled — and not a shovelful of dirt has been moved.

As endless debates over the heritage structure’s future have raged over the years at city hall, spiralling construction costs have taken the project’s estimated 2002 cost of $14.5 million to $63 million.

“Construction costs are increasing at 10 per cent a year,” said Tom Timm, the city’s general manager of engineering services.

Timm outlined the cost increase in a memo for yesterday’s Vancouver City Council meeting, where council debated whether the bridge widening should be part of a capital referendum in this fall’s civic election.

The city had set aside $13 million for the upgrade, but now is being asked to come up with another $44 million to ensure the budget will be large enough to cover the costs of the long-delayed plan.

And Timm warned in his memo that, by the time the Winter Olympics arrive in 2010, costs are likely to be higher still.

“If construction costs continue to escalate at the rate that they have over the past few years, the estimate could rise by an addition $6 million by that time — bringing the total to $63 million,” wrote Timm.

Timm outlined the goals of the increasingly expensive project:

– To improve the bridge for bicyclists and pedestrians to meet increased demand and to increase safety.

– To repair the crumbling concrete railings.

Timm identified construction costs as a huge factor in the increases, along with structural design and heritage components, and the need to provide a traffic barrier that meets current bridge-design codes.

“We’re hoping to work on the project after the Olympics,” said Timm.

“But there will be a lot of other large public projects going on at the airport, with the Port Mann Bridge expansion, and with the Evergreen SkyTrain line.”

© The Vancouver Province 2008


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