New Democrats seek urgent meeting to avoid $2B bypass boondoggle

The Opposition wants a more efficient and affordable bypass plan along with immediate interim safety measures on Highway 1 East 

The NDP is calling for an urgent meeting with the Sask. Party government to talk about the NDP’s proposed Highway 1 safety plan and alternate Regina bypass routes.

“It’s time to cut out partisanship and talk solutions – both for the immediate safety of drivers on Highway 1 east of Regina, and to avoid a $2 billion boondoggle with a bypass in the wrong place,” said NDP deputy leader Trent Wotherspoon. 

The NDP’s proposed plan is to immediately put traffic lights up at key intersections on Highway 1 east of Regina; and to hire local firms to immediately begin construction on the planned overpasses for that stretch of highway, breaking them out of the bypass bundle that won’t be done until 2019. While this critical construction happens, the NDP wants a full review of potential bypass routes in order to choose the smartest, safest and most cost-efficient one.

Despite significant outcry over the Sask. Party's chosen route, which doesn't even bypass the city, the government has now plowed ahead with expropriating land for the Regina bypass.

Thanks to the government's bad choices, including the decision to use a P3 rent-a-road scheme led by a conglomerate from France, the estimated costs for the Regina bypass have gone from $400 million in 2013, to nearly $2 billion today. That figure doesn't even include the huge costs for the land.

“We want a bypass built around our capital city, but we need it built right, in the right location and for the right price,” said NDP deputy leader Trent Wotherspoon. “To have this many concerns and cost increases with the bypass project before the shovels even go into the ground should be an enormous red flag. We can't afford to let the Sask. Party government ignore concerns, plow ahead with its own agenda and throw billions of taxpayers' dollars into their flawed bypass plan. We need to get this right.”

The NDP’s proposal includes the following steps: 

  • Immediately put traffic lights up at high-risk, high-fatality intersections on Highway 1 East. Area residents have repeatedly requested this as a common-sense, temporary measure to save lives.
  • Immediately tender and build the Highway 1 East overpasses. Overpasses needed along this stretch of highway are being delayed by the government’s choice to use a massive P3 deal with a conglomerate from France. The Sask. Party doesn't plan to complete the P3 project until 2019. By looking to local construction companies to build these desperately needed overpasses, regardless of the eventual bypass route, they will be more affordable and built faster.
  • Release all studies on the bypass. So far, the government has only released select, heavily redacted reports.
  • Through 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 clearly 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 rent-a-road scheme against a straightforward build. This comparison should be verified by an independent body and should not include inflated, bogus “risk” allocations, as independent auditors in Ontario and Saskatchewan have already shown that practice is misleading and far too costly for taxpayers. 

“What the Sask. Party government is essentially asking Saskatchewan people to hand over to this French corporation amounts to 2,000 million-dollar cheques – this is an astronomical amount of money. We deserve both transparency and accountability from the provincial government, as well as a project we can be confident is in the right place for the long term,” said Wotherspoon. “If we sit down and talk about this deal, maybe we can finally convince the Sask. Party to stop plowing ahead with a flawed plan, listen to concerns and common-sense ideas and focus on the safety of drivers. I think families deserve at least that.”

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For more information, contact:
Erin Morrison, NDP caucus