With costs for the planned Regina bypass skyrocketing to almost $2 billion, the NDP is calling for a short pause on the project in order to head off a disaster while saving taxpayers money and delivering the safest, most efficient route.
The NDP also wants overpasses tendered and built on Highway 1 East immediately, and traffic lights installed as an interim safety measure to avoid more devastating collisions on the corridor.
“Families, drivers and taxpayers are concerned about the Sask. Party's growing bypass disaster. We need a bypass built around our capital city, but we need it built it right, in the right location and for the best price,” said NDP deputy leader Trent Wotherspoon. “The bypass was originally given a $400 million price tag. Then it was $800 million. It jumped to $1.2 billion once the Sask. Party decided to use a costly P3 rent-a-road approach. Then the price tag jumped again to a whopping $1.9 billion when the Sask. Party decided to give the project to a corporation from France. But that price tag isn’t even final because it doesn’t include the price of the land. So this project will cost taxpayers well over $2 billion for a bypass that won't even bypass the city and won't divert much of the traffic.
“With a project this important and this expensive, we need a measure-twice, cut-once approach. That's why the best move right now is to put a brief pause on this project; put safety measures in place to immediately make Highway 1 East safer; and do the due diligence so that Regina's bypass is built in the right location for the most cost-effective price.”
Wotherspoon laid out the following steps to a better bypass plan.
Immediately put traffic lights up on Highway 1 East at high-risk, high-fatality intersections. This has been repeatedly requested by area residents as a common-sense, temporary measure to save lives.
Immediately tender and build the Highway 1 East overpasses. The overpasses that are needed on Highway 1 East are being delayed by the government’s choice to use a massive P3 deal with a conglomerate from France. The Sask. Party plans not to complete the P3 project until 2019. By looking to local construction companies to build these overpasses Saskatchewan needs, regardless of the eventual bypass route, we can have them built faster, and more cost-effectively.
Release all studies done to-date regarding the bypass and the route chosen. So far, the government has only released select, heavily redacted reports.
- Using a transparent and arm’s length process, evaluate other potential routes using the most up-to-date information. This step should compare an east-south route that actually bypasses the city as well as an east-north route, examining a connection at Highway 46 and Balgonie, against the current $2 billion plan. Any earlier comparisons or studies were obviously inaccurate or incomplete, in that they assumed the current Tower Road route would cost only a fraction of what the government is now planning to pay.
- Compare the full price of the P3 rental scheme against a straightforward build. This comparison should be verified by an independent body and should not include inflated, bogus “risk” allocations, as the auditors in Ontario and Saskatchewan have already shown that practice to be misleading and costly for taxpayers.
“The Sask. Party has dismissed legitimate concerns for years, saying the bypass has been ‘studied to death.’ But now those ministers claim the massive jump in costs was due to ignorance during all earlier stages. Well that doesn't make any sense,” said Wotherspoon. “This is a massive project and we only get one shot at it – to have this many concerns and cost increases with the bypass before the shovels even go into the ground should be a gigantic red flag. Instead of letting the Sask. Party and the conglomerate from France plow ahead, let’s get this right.”