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Projected cost of Salmon Arm’s Ross Street underpass goes up by $3.5 million

Funds from downtown parkade project to be used to bolster underpass funding
The proposed Ross Street underpass. (City of Salmon Arm illustration)

Construction of the Ross Street Underpass in Salmon Arm is now expected to cost over $3.5 million more than it was in the 2017 budget.

In October 2018, a majority of voters approved the borrowing of $5.3 million towards construction of the underpass, which was projected to cost a total of approximately $12.4 million. However, city staff informed council at this week’s June 8 meeting that the projected cost has risen by 28 per cent to closer to $16 million.

On Monday, after much discussion, council unanimously approved amending the city’s 2020 to 2024 financial plan to reflect the additional cost, but the source of the extra funding sparked some disapproval. While the extra funding needed will not mean additional borrowing or a tax increase because it will come from grants and reserve accounts, it will, most notably, push back the Downtown Parkade Project by five years from 2023 to 2028.

Carl Bannister, the city’s chief administrative officer, reported that a total of $1.57 million will be taken from the general parking lot reserve earmarked for the downtown parkade. He stated in his report that staff “recognize that a Downtown Parkade may no longer be a short-term priority given the movement toward active transportation.”

Read more: Election 2018 - Majority of voters give the nod to underpass spending

Read more: The Ross Street underpass - arguments for a ‘yes’ vote

Read more: The Ross Street underpass - arguments for a ‘no’ vote

Coun. Chad Eliason, council’s representative on the city’s downtown parking commission, expressed his disappointment, stating he’s not happy that volunteer members of the commission have spent two to three years working on a strategic plan and “just had all of their momentum pulled out from under them.”

In addition to the dollars in reserve for the parkade, the underpass increase will be funded by: $1.07 million in grants; $525,000 from the underpass reserve account; $157,000 from the Trans-Canada Highway intersections reserve account; and $250,000 from the 20th Avenue/20th Street intersection realignment reserve account. Staff said the province will be paying for the latter.

Bannister’s report stated that although a healthy contingency of $1.8 million or 20 per cent of the total project estimate was included in the 2017 budget, additional engineering and geotechnical requirements as well as about six per cent inflation have contributed to the increase.

“Increased geotechnical requirements from CP Rail (diversion track may need to be left in place for up to two years as a risk management measure due to settlement concerns and before going live on the new bridge structure – staff are currently negotiating with private property owners to accommodate this) and timeline delays (due to several factors including COVID-19)” are contributing factors, Bannister wrote.

Settlement refers to settling or sinking.

Read more: Salmon Arm’s Ross Street Underpass construction is underway

Read more: Ross Street Underpass expected to be September-to-September project

Read more: Next for Salmon Arm underpass - build new tracks to avoid construction area

He said the final projected cost may still change once the final engineering concerns are determined by CP Rail.

“While it has not yet been finally determined, the CP Building may be demolished and/or moved by CP due to settlement concerns,” Bannister added.

CP has upped its contribution to the $15.7 million project from $1.425 million to $1.5 million. Council heard that staff have worked hard to get that much from the company.

The final cost of the project will only be known once the tender process is complete, Bannister said. It is slated to go to tender with six prequalified contractors on July 15, 2020 with construction expected to begin in September.

Several councillors agreed the timing is good to proceed.

In his closing remarks, Mayor Alan Harrison also stayed positive, agreeing that with the Salmon River Bridge contract going out on June 5, the two projects will employ many local contractors.

“And that’s just what we need. To vote against the project would be to say we’re not going to build it.”
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Martha Wickett

About the Author: Martha Wickett

came to Salmon Arm in May of 2004 to work at the Observer. I was looking for a change from the hustle and bustle of the Lower Mainland, where I had spent more than a decade working in community newspapers.
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