A Bridge to Bridge Too Far

Questions over the proposed Bridge to Bridge project.

Dear Editor:

The current to spend $4,000,000.00 on raising the Kicking Horse River dyke while at the same time undertaking some beautification of the existing service lane needs a serious second look.

Like many of us, I support the idea of the project.

However, I have grave concerns about the lack of transparency, the proposed cost, and the failure to consider alternatives, as set out below.

The mayor committed to a transparent process.   Townsfolk were invited to contact the Town’s administrator with questions. I did so. I had five questions. I wished to know, for example, the total anticipated amount to be paid to Urban Systems for their work on the project, as project engineers.   I assume that this would be a line item in the project budget.

I wanted to know how much had been paid for the “Bridge to Bridge Project Justification/Business Case” Report.

This is the report prepared by Urban Systems which the Town administration appears to be using to justify the project and its costs.

More than two weeks later I have answers to none of my questions.

The Town has paid for the report; the cost should be easily available.    Also, if after more than two weeks  the Town cannot even produce the aggregate budgeted figure for engineering costs, then I have concerns about the ability of the Town to financially manage the project.

The letter which Councillor Moss published in the Golden Star recently to justify the project does not speak to the issue which concerns many people, namely whether raising a dyke which is 300 meters long by 1.5 meters should cost $4,000,000.00.

Of this figure about $800,000.00 is not budgeted for dyke improvement but for other amenities, such as buried power lines and pedestrian walkways.

The Town appears not to have considered whether this portion of the project could be deferred until better economic times.

The economy in Golden is under severe stress and the Town is still deep in recession.     This fact does not seem to be appreciated by the current Town Administration, who have ramped up staffing costs in the Town office dramatically over the past two years, according to the Five Year Financial Plan summary circulated to the public.

I do not find the economic analysis to justify the beautification component of B to B compelling – that improving pedestrian access to the existing service lane will actually generate enhanced economic activity.   The Business case report just assumes that economic activity will flow from the project, but there is no actual evidence cited that such has happened in any other community.

The Town seems to have commissioned a report which proposed one alternative only and adopted it without considering whether it was the best solution.    There is no evidence that a second engineering analysis was sought or that the report was independently reviewed.    It would be normal for a project with Federal government funding that multiple alternatives would be reviewed so that all project risks would be mitigated and the best economic solution chosen.   Even the Golden Nordic Ski club had to obtain three proposals for its day lodge to obtain funding.

As someone brought up on the Coast I observed marine style breakwaters featuring steel-contained dykes, for example, often located in environments where protracted and violent wave action occurred.   There is no indication that such an alternative has been ever considered for Bridge to Bridge, yet such structures might bypass the extensive excavation that the current proposal will entail and might therefore be cheaper and better manage environmental risks.

I think that the conception and the budget for this project were incubated at a time when Golden was booming, but the boom is gone and the council should therefore reconsider what they are proposing in the light of the current economic reality.

Bruce F. Fairley