No, no, not again

It’s happening again, and its scary. At least it’s scary for taxpayers in the capital city of Victoria, British Columbia, who have been watching nervously for the past several years as their beloved, but seemingly permanently bewildered, municipal politicians tried to replace an ancient bridge with something more modern – and safer.
Vancouver Island readers will be well aware of the saga of what they once knew as “The Blue Bridge” spanning a small bottle-neck of water which links the capital (of BC) city’s Inner and Outer Harbours. Readers in far way Indonesia or Argentina or Central Europe may be able to conjure up memories of visits to Canada’s westernmost major city, its scenic Inner Harbour flanked by the provincial Parliament buildings, gracious high-rise apartment buildings limited to a 14-storey maximum height plus the stately Empress Hotel of world renown.
And, leaping a modest hundred yards or less across the watery link to the industrial Inner Harbour, the iconic “Blue Bridge” a cantilevered affair with the look of a giant Meccano set clumsily assembled.
The old bridge was declared to be rusting in its blue paint hidden vital parts and in need of replacement before it disastrously collapsed. City fathers – and mothers – listened to the reports of impending tragedy and decided to replace. The decision was not greeted with jubilation by all citizens but city council plunged bravely ahead with, in 2009, the estimated cost of $63 million. A year later the estimated cost had risen to $89 million but a “return to the drawing board” trimmed a railway connector line (the old bridge had carried road and rail traffic) and the estimated cost in 2013 was back to $62 million.
But not for long. A few weeks back the new bridge builders asked for a change in estimates saying it required an additional $7.9 million and five and half months more in time to get the bridge up and operating. Victoria Mayor Dean Fortin balked, called in a consultant at $15,000 to assess risks and review all contract documents.
On Tuesday July 15 a front page story in the local newspaper announced the replacement by the city of Victoria of the bridge project manager. He is to be replaced, wrote reporter Bill Cleverly, by the consultant hired to check “all contract documents and interview key staff.”
I have no idea how all this is going to work out next year – when the puddle-jumping bridge is scheduled to be open to traffic. And I have no idea whether the main contractor is justified or not for asking for extra time and money.
But I’m glad I’m no longer a taxpayer in Victoria where major projects seem doomed to confusion and ever spiraling expense when anything larger than recreational swings and roundabouts are required.
And I’ll bet readers in the far flung corners of the World Wide Web who get to read this do too.

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