A truck crosses the rail line on Vye Road at the site of a promised overpass that is now set to be built. File photo

A truck crosses the rail line on Vye Road at the site of a promised overpass that is now set to be built. File photo

Budget for Abbotsford highway and overpass project now $20 million higher than first announced

Budget for Highway 11 widening and Vye Road overpass to be set at $47 million

The final price tag to widen Highway 11 near the U.S. border and to build an overpass at Vye Road is expected to be more than $20 million higher than first billed.

But construction is, finally, around the corner.

When the project was first announced in 2013, its cost was announced as $25 million – to be split equally three ways between the city and the federal and provincial governments. The budget increased in 2017 and again last August, when the city revealed that the cost to complete the project had increased by $6 million to $37.3 million. But even that, it turns out, was optimistic.

On Monday, council heard that the project now has a budget of $46.7 million. At that meeting, council awarded the contract to start designing and building the project. Construction is now expected to begin early next year, with completion set for late 2022.

The city was once supposed to pay about $8.3 million when the project was first announced by municipal, provincial and federal politicians. Now seven years later, the city is on the hook for $19.2 million of its final cost. The bulk of that – about $11 million – will come from gas tax money the city receives from senior levels of government for infrastructure projects. Another $6.5 million will come from the city’s reserve, while the Southern Railway of BC will chip in $1.45 million towards Abbotsford portion of the bill.

The province’s share of the cost has also more than doubled, to $18.5 million. Of that, CPR will kick in $600,000.

But despite the cost increases, the federal government is still set to pay the same $8.3 million it promised in 2013; although Transport Canada may provide another half-million dollars through its rail safety improvement program.

Rob Isaac, the city’s engineering and regional utilities general manager, said construction inflation, increased industrial land costs and changes to the project’s scope all pushed the price up – as did the impact of COVID-19.

The long delay for the project to get underway was in large part due to slow negotiations between government and the two railways that run parallel to Highway 11 – and which the new overpass will cross.

Coun. Ross Siemens said Monday that the city had little leverage in those discussions.

“Some of the challenges were quite complex and outside of the city’s ability to control,” he said. “Especially when it comes to railways, they often hold the trump card when it comes to various levels of government.”

He continued: “There were issues of other crossings that we tried to negotiate that were taken off the table that were taken off the table that would have made city planning a lot easier.”

Siemens was alluding to a crossing at McConnell Road that had been a key part of the initial announcement of the project, but which won’t be built as part of the Vye Road/Highway 11 project.

On Monday, the city finalized the contract for the designing of the project – including the widening of Highway 11 and the building of the Vye Road overpass. Eurovia British Columbia complete the work, at a cost of $28.1 million. One other bid came from Peter Kiewit Sons ULC. It was substantially higher, at $40.6 million.

The project’s total $46.7 million budget also includes $6.6 million to acquire property, $3.5 million for “engineering and management” and $4.2 million to be paid to adjacent railways and “third party utilities.”

And there’s still the potential for the $46.7 million price tag to come down because that figure includes a $5.9 million contingency fund.

Siemens credited staff for their work in bringing the project to fruition.

And Coun. Sandy Blue hailed the fact that a project that was talked about two decades ago looks finally set to be built.

“As with all construction, especially with something of this scope, there will be the anticipated construction delays, but it will be absolutely well worth it.”

FROM 2019: Vye Road overpass/Hwy 11 project to cost $6 million more than first thought

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