Tender for the construction of the Salmon River Bridge is expected to be issued soon.
An update on the Salmon Arm West project along Highway 1, provided to the Observer in an email by the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure, explains the preload work was completed last year for phase 1 of the project which runs from 1st Avenue SW to 10th Ave. SW.
The main work in this phase, for which the tender is expected to be issued in the coming months, includes the new Salmon River Bridge, 2.2 kilometres of Highway 1 widening with concrete median barrier, construction of an interchange with frontage road connections, construction of frontage roads to consolidate access to and from Highway 1, and a multi-use pathway for pedestrians, cyclists and other non-motorized users.
Shuswap MLA Greg Kyllo said it will be great if the tender is indeed issued soon, as the work should already be underway.
Frustrated by delays with the project, Kyllo said he received written confirmation from the ministry and Minister Claire Trevena stating bridge construction was to have begun before the end of 2019.
“Of course that didn’t happen, so my concern as a local representative is we pushed long and hard to see that project get moved past the finish line as far as approvals, and get the budgets in place, and obviously the local residents will not see any benefits of that project until it’s actually built,” said Kyllo, referring to work done by the former BC Liberal government to get the project started. He explained tenders for the preloading work were ready prior to the 2017 election, though that work didn’t begin until the fall of 2018.
The other two phases of the project are currently under design. One of those phases involves the four-laning of 2.8 kilometres of Highway 1 from the western boundary of IR#3 to 1st Avenue SW. The other involves four-laning 1.1 kilometres of highway between 10th Avenue SW and 10th Street SW.
In addition to ongoing safety concerns, Kyllo is worried the project delays will result in the estimated $162.7 million project cost escalating along with increasing construction costs.
“It’s disrespectful to taxpayers,” said Kyllo. “Not only are you not receiving the benefit of the highway improvement, the taxpayers are also going to see increases in construction costs”
The ministry said it will be pursuing a Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) for Salmon Arm West project, expected to increase “opportunities for locals, Indigenous peoples, women and other underrepresented groups to start a lifelong career in the skilled trades.”
For Kyllo, however, use of a CBA, which gives preferential treatment to unionized companies for publicly funded infrastructure projects, will have further implications on cost. As an example, he points to a $35 million Highway 1 improvement project announced by the federal and B.C. provincial governments in 2015. The project was not completed before 2017. In February 2019, when re-announced by the B.C. government, the winning bid for the project, awarded through a CBA, came in at $62.9. And it had been reduced in scope from 2.2 kilometres to two.
“There was limited interest in the project because of the CBA requirement,” said Kyllo. “Only four qualified tenders actually bid the on job and the project actually came in at $83.9 million.”
Because the cost of the Salmon Arm West project wasn’t publicly broken down by phases, Kyllo said taxpayers may have to wait until the third phase to have a better idea of its total cost.