The cost for the first phase of Fraser Highway improvements has increased substantially.
The city has put together a three-part plan to try to reduce traffic congestion on the local artery. Although the third stage of the plan will be to widen the road, the city will first install left-turn lanes at key intersections and undertake other work intended to alleviate bottlenecks.
The cost of that first phase was originally pegged at $7 million, but more design work has turned out a more-precise – and larger – estimate of the final cost. That, combined with frontage work that will add another $400,000 to the total, has increased the project’s budget to $9.3 million.
The total cost of the final project is estimated at $45 million.
The city has taken heat for not proceeding directly to four-laning the road, but engineering staff say that the first phase of improvements combined with the extension of Marshall Road to King Road, will have a substantial effect on traffic flow.
In feedback sessions and online, residents have accused the city of wasting money by doing work but not immediately widening the highway.
Rob Issaac, the city’s engineering general manager, said that much of the work done in the first phase of improvements will contribute to the final, widened version of Fraser Highway.
“The works that are being done along Fraser Highway today, the majority of those works will be used in future phases,” Isaac said at a recent council meeting. “They’re not throwaway works. Ultimately they’ll tie into the long-term cross-section along Fraser Highway.”
Mayor Henry Braun said the cost of the project also requires it to be undertaken in stages.
The city’s applications for federal and provincial funding for the first stage were denied. Braun said the city will make future applications for the second and third stages of the project.
The cost to widen Fraser Highway is a legacy of a trade between the city and the provincial governments decades ago. While Abbotsford once bought its airport from the feds for just $10, it didn’t make out quite so well when it and the feds swapped Fraser Highway for Mt. Lehman Road.
Both roads have required expansion, but the recent widening of Mt. Lehman between the airport and Highway 1 cost $27.5 million, with the federal government and province paying for $25.5 million.
Fraser Highway, meanwhile, will cost about double that sum.
“We got the short end of that stick,” Braun said.
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