The cost of the Regina Bypass project is going up.
On Wednesday, the province announced the total investment for the bypass will be $1.88 billion over the life of the project, including the design, construction, finance, operations, and maintenance. The federal government will invest up to $200 million into the project through PPP Canada.
The cost of the project had originally been estimated at $800 million, and then more recently at $1.2 billion.
So, why the jump?
“The original numbers were simply based on what the costs of the construction would be just to build the bypass,” explained SaskBuilds Minister Gordon Wyant.
Wyant clarified the $1.88 billion number includes construction and maintenance over the next 30 years, as well as two new interchanges that have been added to the project.
The bypass is being built using a Public Private Partnership (P3) funding model which the province says will save $380 million and cut the time to build the bypass roughly in half compared to a traditional construction approach. It’s a fixed-price contract, Wyant explained, meaning any cost overruns or delays are the responsibility of the Regina Bypass Partners, which is the consortium selected to build what will be the largest transportation infrastructure project in Saskatchewan’s history.
“We are subject to some significant financial penalties if we fail to do that,” said president of Regina Bypass Partners, Tim Heavenor, in regards to meeting strict budget and time guidelines.
Wyant said he didn’t anticipate the cost to increase, but didn’t rule it out. That will depend on whether the province decides to add more to the project, like it did with the two new interchanges. At that point, we could see another increase to the overall figure.
“There may be some chances that it will go up. We don’t anticipate that,” said Heavenor.
The project will create more than 11,000 jobs – 8,200 of which will be construction related. Heavenor said they’ll be holding job fairs in the future and creating opportunities for people to apply for specific jobs during the construction process.
Group Not Happy
The Regina Committee for an Alternative Bypass Solution insisted “democracy has been denied” with the release of the bypass price tag. Nestor Mryglod has been outspoken about the route in the past, believing there are safer and cheaper alternatives. He said he was astonished by the announcement, for all the wrong reasons.
“It’s a sad day for Saskatchewan that their legacy will be one of long term debt for the largest infrastructure project in Saskatchewan,” he said.
He can’t wrap his head around how the cost has increased by one billion dollars.
“Why is everything so top secret? We’ve asked a lot of questions. We’ve got very few answers.”
Like Mryglod and his group, the provincial opposition is confused too.
“How does this kind of increase happen?,” questioned NDP Deputy House Leader, John Nilson.
“There’s a lot of explaining that needs to be done.”
Nilson isn’t disagreeing the Queen City needs a detour for traffic in the east end, he just believes there are other route options that would lower the cost. Nilson and the party also outlined how they aren’t keen on using the P3 method, or how the consortium chosen to build the route includes corporations from France, California and British Columbia.
White City Mayor Pleased
The province’s announcement brought White City Mayor Bruce Evans to tears as he was forced to recall recent painful memories.
“I lost a friend. Others in the area have lost friends and relatives. It’s an important project for us all,” he said.
At the same time, Evans said he was ecstatic and thrilled the project is moving forward, thinking mostly about the safety improving along Highway 1, east of Regina.
Overpasses at Balgonie and White City will be included in Phase 1 of construction, expected to be complete by the fall of 2017. All construction on the massive project is still scheduled to be finished in the fall of 2019. Site work has already begun in preparation for shovels to hit the ground, which will happen later this summer.