Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

City on hook for road-work cost overruns?

Waverley West price escalating, mayor told

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The construction of new major roads through Waverley West is as much as $20 million over budget -- and the City of Winnipeg may be stuck with the tab.

Mayor Sam Katz and several city councillors have been warned the Waverley West Arterial Roads Project, which includes the extension of Kenaston Boulevard from Bishop Grandin Boulevard to the Perimeter Highway, has ballooned by tens of millions over its original $54.7-million budget.

All three levels of government agreed in 2009 to shoulder an equal share of the cost of the project, which also includes changes to Waverley Street as well as new intersections.

The money was placed in the city's capital budget in 2010 but work did not begin in earnest until the past two summers. One of the delays was the result of an environmental assessment ordered up by Ottawa to ensure the project did not impact fish habitat, said St. Norbert Coun. Justin Swandel.

Changes to Kenaston Boulevard created a new crossing of a body of water called the Lot 16 Drain, which runs alongside Bishop Grandin Boulevard on its way to the Red River.

"With any big federal project, they have the right to say they want an environmental assessment," said Swandel, who surmised the study pushed back the start date of the Kenaston work by at least 18 months.

A change to the intersection at the Perimeter Highway may be the province's responsibility, Swandel added.

Katz said he is still waiting to hear an explanation for the cost overruns, but said initial information suggests the hike is not entirely the city's fault. The 2013 capital budget may have to address the funding shortfall, the mayor said.

Katz said he fears the city may wind up eating the cost increase on its own, regardless of who's to blame. Infrastructure-funding deals involving three levels of government typically don't include contingencies for cost overruns, he said.

"It's never one-third, one-third, one-third. The city always ends up paying more money," said Katz, adding preliminary design work that could reduce the potential for cost overruns also never winds up getting covered by tri-level funding deals. "The city is always left holding the bag."

Katz said he would prefer to see Building Canada Fund-style pots of money replaced with a new infrastructure-funding formula for cities. Katz has been arguing for a share of growth revenues since early 2005.

Swandel, meanwhile, would like to shelve a new planning framework for Waverley West that includes old road locations without taking other changes to the area into account. For example, Pembina Trails School Division now plans to build four schools in Waverley West instead of the six new institutions envisioned when the city, province, school division and developer Ladco drew up plans for a more pedestrian-friendly new suburb.

On Tuesday, Swandel attempted to convince council's property committee to hold off on approving a new Waverley West planning framework. But he was ruled out of order by committee chairman Jeff Browaty (North Kildonan) because public hearings about the plan had closed.

"I was trying to speak in generalities about roads and schools because there are big changes out there," said Swandel, who attempted to limit further Waverley West development until a new school was built.

"This is not me trying to pull a fast one on somebody. These are very serious issues."

bartley.kives@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 8, 2012 A8

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