DCN ARCHIVES

September 8, 2006

Costs for ring road around Calgary soar

CALGARY

There are young Calgary commuters who fully expect to be enjoying their retirement on Vancouver Island before a ring road is built around Calgary.

They may be right.

Earlier this year, decades after the ring road was first announced, it looked like a go for the northwest portion of the project.

Not so fast.

The cash-strapped provincial government, looking at cost overruns of up to $235 million, has just announced that completion of the road is being pushed back a year to 2008.

Infrastructure and Transportation department spokesperson Bart Johnson says the original price tag of the northwest section of the ring road has soared from $250 million to $485 million.

He attributes two thirds of the increase to the rising costs of labour, materials and fuel.

The remaining third of the extra cost is due to changes in scope, including new interchanges at Sarcee Trail and Stoney Trail N.W. and Deerfoot Trail and Stoney Trail just south of Balzac.

Under the original budget, Alberta was to pay $175 million of the $250 million cost while the federal government anted up the remaining $75 million.

A public/private partnership is being considered for the project. A decision on that is expected to be made by year end.

Premier Ralph Klein said recently that the pressures of Alberta’s booming economy are creating huge financial challenges for the government.

The province is expecting to have to come up with an extra $206 million over the next three years to pay for rising costs on road projects.

“We didn’t anticipate the tremendous pressures that were brought to bear relative to some capital projects,” Klein said.

If he expected sympathy from Calgary Mayor Dave Bronconnier he didn’t get it. “Just a few days ago, they announced a surplus of $4.5 billion, even after $1.5 billion in new spending,” Bronconnier sputtered last month as he toured the city’s new intersection project at Glenmore Trail and Elbow Drive, which has escalated in cost from $100 million to $150 million.

“Look, I share the province’s pain over higher costs. It’s not fun to tell voters a project is going to cost more. Every project we tender is coming in higher. But am I to tell neighbourhoods we won’t give you fire protection or a road because of price increases?

“I can’t believe they would think about shelving some of these projects. That’s only going to make them more expensive in the long run. You need long-term contracts so companies will invest in people and equipment to get the job done. Given the absolute need for infrastructure in Calgary, I can’t imagine why anybody would talk about stopping a project.”

A start to construction on the southwest portion of the ring road seems even further away.

According to the schedule, the land appraisal was to have been done and a draft agreement between the Tsuu T’ina Nation and the province completed last spring.

As of this summer, the appraiser hadn’t been hired and the Tsuu T’ina vote on the land transfer wasn’t expected to be held until late fall at the earliest.

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