Johnson Street Bridge: Justification for a governance review (continued)
The City of Victoria originally announced that some long-term loans were due to be paid off and the cost of borrowing the needed funds would be “a wash”. Victoria then set about borrowing the money under Counter Petition rules, meaning they could borrow the funds unless a counter petition was signed by 10% of Victoria registered voters.
The JohnsonStreetBridge.org (Ross Crockford) launched a successful counter petition, forcing the City to hold a referendum to authorize borrowing $48.2 million towards the cost of a new Bridge.
Prior to that, Victoria had obtained a $21 million grant from the Federal Building Canada Fund.
The referendum was held on November 20, 2010 and passed.
By 2012, the bridge project costs had increased to $77 million.
On March 3, 2012, a Federal Gas Tax Grant of $16.5 million was announced. These Government of Canada funds are distributed via the Union of British Columbia Municipalities (UBCM) from gas taxes collected from Canadians across the country.
Despite assurances from former Mayor Dean Fortin that the construction contract with PCL Constructors Westcoast Inc. was “fixed price”, costs to date have increased to $98.1 million.
The rail bridge was decommissioned in March 2011 after unsuccessful attempts to get regional funding assistance for that portion of the bridge. Although a rail link is a regional benefit, it was removed and no provision was made for rail on the new bridge. And while cities around the world are building or improving rail public transit to their downtown locations, sadly the rail link to downtown Victoria was lost, perhaps forever.
So let's review the funding to date:
$21.0 million from the Building Canada Fund, paid for by all Canadians
+$48.2 million borrowing authorization, to be paid by City of Victoria residents
+$16.5 million from the Federal Gas Tax Fund, paid by Canadians all across Canada
= $85.7 million total funding
-$98.1 million current Johnson Street Bridge project costs
=$12.4 million shortfall, which must also be paid by Victoria
Ultimately, in total $60.6 million will be paid by City of Victoria taxpayers alone. ($12.4 + $48.2 million)
Regardless of whether or not other local municipalities supported the UBCM in the administration and allocation of the $16.5 million Gas Tax Grant, that amount pales in comparison to Victoria's $60.6 million financial obligation.
And let there be no presumption that the $16.5 million Gas Tax funds would have come to the Victoria area for any other project.
No matter how you look at it, only Victoria residents are directly paying for the new bridge. Yet drivers from throughout the Region will use it without directly contributing to its cost.
Does the bridge have value to the region or only the City of Victoria? I am unaware of any studies done in that regard. However, we know that a good portion of the bridge users reside outside the City municipal boundaries.
The same applies to jobs that are dependant on a lift bridge. Point Hope Shipyards, Island Asphalt, Ocean Cement, Schnitzer Steel, Lehigh Materials, and possibly others are significant employers. It's unlikely that all those employees live in the City, so they too benefit from a lift bridge, as do the companies whose activities benefit the region.
Why don't more municipalities in the region contribute? Because under our current governance model, they don’t have to.
- Colin Nielsen