Plessis Road will remain closed to vehicular traffic well into 2015, thanks to a delay in the construction of an underpass at CN Rail's Redditt line.
The major Transcona artery was closed last summer between Dugald Road and Kernaghan Avenue as part of a $77-million road-widening and underpass-construction project.
The original plan called for the regional street to partly reopen late this year by laying down a temporary concrete or asphalt surface. A newsletter mailed to Transcona households in December declared "the city remains committed to having two lanes open on Plessis Road by the end of 2014."
But in January, city administrators informed politicians the underpass cannot be completed in time to lay down temporary asphalt or concrete before the spring of 2015 -- at which time it may be advisable to simply complete the project by laying down a permanent road surface.
The bottom line for Transcona motorists is Plessis Road may not reopen until the summer or fall of 2015.
"It seems the city is incapable of handling any major capital project," seethed Transcona Coun. Russ Wyatt, who successfully lobbied the federal Conservative government and Manitoba's NDP government to share the cost of the Plessis Road widening and underpass project.
During the 2011 federal election campaign, Wyatt endorsed Lawrence Toet, the Conservative candidate for Elmwood-Transcona. The Harper government responded by announcing its support for the Plessis Road project, which was not ranked first on a list of city infrastructure priorities.
With federal cash on the table, the Selinger government announced it too would support the project. Together, Ottawa and the province agreed to cover $44.4 million of the $77-million tab, with the city responsible for the remaining $32.6 million.
Now, it's Wyatt who finds himself facing a Plessis Road closure for the remainder of 2014, a municipal election year. He blamed senior city staff for failing to ensure the project was completed on time.
The delay stems from the complexity of the project, which demands the temporary relocation of a section of Shell oil pipelines, a section of the CN Redditt line and a section of an Imperial Oil pipeline.
Public works director Brad Sacher said the Shell pipelines can't be moved until a railway detour is built, which in turn cannot be started until the Imperial pipeline is moved.
"It's a domino effect," he said. "A sequence of events are required to allow the critical path here. The amount of work is such that, inevitably, things come up that are not foreseen."
Sacher said the timeline for the project was already optimistic, given no design work had been conducted when politicians announced the underpass and road-widening. Usually, preliminary design work is underway before a project gets a green light.
Nonetheless, the city came up with what Sacher described as an aggressive, three-year plan to complete a project that would otherwise take four years. But there was little room for error.
One delay arose last year, pertaining to negotiations with the railway, Sacher and Wyatt said. The latest setback resulted from a one-month delay in the work that must be conducted on the Imperial pipeline, they said.
As a result, what was already a narrow window in 2014 for placing a temporary surface on the underpass has closed, Sacher said.
There is a risk the delays will jeopardize the flow of funds from Ottawa and the province. If that happens, the city would be forced to assume a greater share of the project's cost.
On the other hand, Sacher and Wyatt are optimistic the project can be finished before a deadline of Sept. 1, 2015, thanks to a construction contract that offers a $10,000-a-day bonus for early completion and a $10,000-a-day penalty for being late.