ROSZAN HOLMEN: ‘”People doubt what our staff say…(and) doubt the professionalism of what the experts say,” Mayor Dean Fortin said’

[Victoria City] Council approved a one-year delay and an extra $840,000 to get more accurate estimates of the cost and public support for both replacing and fixing the Johnson Street Bridge.

The goal is to be able to compare “apples to apples,” Councillors agreed on Thursday.

Already, more than $900,000 has been spent on plans to replace the bridge.

With a similar level of detailed analysis on the refurbishment option, Council can make a more informed decision.

Councillor Pamela Madoff called for “absolute comparability of replacement versus refurbishment.”

Elements of safety and accessibility must be equal in both estimates, she said, pointing to features such as the multi-use trail, upgrades to the road approaches and seismic standards.

That means getting cost estimates for two levels of seismic upgrades (minimum standards and upgraded “lifeline” standards) for both replacement and refurbishment options.

Staff will also study the economic impacts of road closures to businesses under both options.

To give the public confidence in the results, all the analysis will be subject to peer review by an independent engineering firm.

“People doubt what our staff say… (and) doubt the professionalism and the ability of what the experts say,” Mayor Dean Fortin said.

“Let’s have that peer review … it’s about having confidence in moving forward.”

While most Councillors said they still feel replacing the bridge is the best option, all agreed it would be a bad idea to rush a referendum before doing the research.

With each new delay, costs are escalating, warned the report from staff.

Already, the City can expect to pay an extra $8 million due to an expired opportunity to take advantage of a low-interest-rate loan through the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation.

If interest rates continue to rise as expected, that bill could double.

Drawing on her nursing background, Councillor Sonya Chandler compared the process to pulling a Band-aid off slowly.

“It’s too bad that we are in a situation where we have to spend $800,000 to find out what we already know.”

In October, the City will hold a referendum seeking support for a bylaw authorizing a loan to complete the project.

CCC BLOG reprint:

Victoria News: vicnews.com

Roszan Holmen: rholmen@saanichnews.com

New analysis commissioned on Blue Bridge refurbishment

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Page A13

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