Sunday, November 18, 2012

Talking real money

One indisputable dunce pursuing a nomination for the coming provincial election praised the B.C. Liberal government for its "prudent fiscal management." Obviously, that person pays no attention to reality. Oxford Dictionaries defines the adjective prudent:
"acting with or showing care and thought for the future."
Liberals under Campbell or Clark have done the opposite; they've been remarkably unwise and imprudent. The scale of financial follies has grown so large in this province that citizens are inured. Collectively, British Columbians shrug, unable to notice the situation described by Everett Dirksen long ago:
"A billion here, a billion there, pretty soon, you're talking real money."
I've written here extensively about BC HYDRO, BC FERRIES, BC RAIL and bcIMC.

The opening this month of the new Port Mann bridge is merely one more piece of evidence. In January, The Journal of Commerce interviewed Gerrit Hardenberg, a senior structural engineer during construction of the five lane bridge that opened in 1964:
"Hardenberg was astonished when he found out about the B.C. government’s decision to replace the Port Mann bridge with a new cable-stayed structure that will open in late 2012 or early 2013.

" 'I consider the project a waste of money, firstly, because the present bridge has not come at all to the end of its useful life,' he said.

"...'I think that the final decision for the project is influenced by the desire to save the government the trouble of financing the whole scheme by cunningly replacing a free bridge with a toll bridge,' said Hardenberg.

" 'Politically, this transition seems easier if you go for a completely new scheme and remove the old bridge.' "
Indeed, the 1964 Port Mann bridge received extensive seismic upgrades in 2001 after which, according to highways engineers, its useful life had been extended to at least 2040. Of course, the decision to spend $3.3 billion for a new toll bridge and roadway improvements was about serving the real beneficiaries of BC Liberal rule: land developers and constructions contractors, especially Kevin Falcon's favourite: KIEWIT.

Does the Port Mann project reflect prudent fiscal management? Well, using the Bank of Canada inflation calculator, we can compare today's project with the one from 1964. The original $25 million bridge cost translates to $185 million in today's dollars.



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13 comments:

  1. Exactly, this how our government works - pay off government supporters, not with phony contracts and padded costs, plan gold-plated transportation projects, costing 3, 4, or 10 times more than they should.

    This is why SkyTrain is built. The light metro is now deemed obsolete because modern LRT is far cheaper to build and operate; but this does not bother government both provincial and civic, who plan for more grossly expensive SkyTrain to benefit big business, land developers, bureaucrats and scores of architectural and engineering.

    When a new SkyTrain is announced, the hard offices of cement companies literally shake with financial orgasm!

    The NDP played the same game with the Millennium Line.

    That no one builds with SkyTrain anymore is a moot point as government finds the mini-metro a good vehicle to move money to political friends.

    Where is the mainstream media? Ha ha ha, they are busy glad handing these projects in hope that some of the taxpayer;s lucre ends up in their pockets.

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  2. It would be interesting to know the cost of building a replica of the old one — say 6 or 8 lanes — that could have coincided with the old one until the original needed replacing.

    But it's done and done — and we're screwed. Hopefully, the BC Christies will be too, in May.

    (And please: no Order of BC for CC as she heads out the door. Disorder, maybe.)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. A replica of the old one would have started at $185 million (original cost in present day dollars) plus another $80 million (cost of 2001 upgrade in today's dollars). Roughly speaking: $300 million for another five lane bridge with approaches. The provincial government does not provide a breakdown of the $3.3 billion project cost but the twinning option would have been less than 1/10 of what they chose.

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    2. Thanks for that, Norm... though there would likely be some add-ons that would elevate the cost of a replica bridge, compared to simply moving the original cost to modern day dollars. Environmental assessment and achaeological digs being two that come to mind. Still, it would have been far cheaper (and quicker).

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  3. Why do we have to pay tolls?I thought the exise tax we pay on our gas was for bridges and highways....I guess it's now needed to pay the preems expense account...WHAT BULLSHIT,any idea how much exise tax they have collected lately?......

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  4. The 1964 Port Mann bridge, seismically upgraded in 2001, had not come anywhere near the end of its life. The Lions Gate Bridge, which has one of the highest per lane traffic flows of any bridge anywhere, began service in 1938. It too was upgraded in 2001 and is planned to be in service decades from now. In fact, before the First Narrows crossing was improved, it was in far, far worse shape than today's old Port Mann bridge. Frankly, it was unconscionably dangerous before repair.

    There were few engineering reasons that justified the current Port Mann project. Also, few urban planning reasons. The decision to proceed was to facilitate Gordon Campbell's friends in their grab for a huge share of the public weal.

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  5. We know the 1964 Port Mann bridge was no where near its end but campbell wanted to reward friends & appear to be doing something besides giving B.C. the highest rate of child poverty in Canada & committing adultry. It wasn't his money so he didn't care. He & his gang built P3s all over the place for all sorts of things. In the end it will cost the people of this province untold amounts of money. If there is anyway for a new government to get out of this shit mess the lieberals made of this bridge, I hope it is done.

    There shouldn't be tolls on bridges & highways in this province. If we can't afford to build them, then we shouldn't be building them. If we actually need a new bridge and/or highway, the provincial government ought to build it & pay a specific amount of the taxes towards it's cost. It would have made much more economical sense to borrow the money to build the new bridges & then simply used the surplus of ICBC to pay off the loan. As it is, the lieberals would raid the ICBC coffers & put the surplus in general revenue to give the appearance of a more balanced budget. We all know how well that has worked for the citizens of B.C.

    The lieberals don't know the first think about managing a government. They don't know the first thing about managing anything difficult. They only know how to manage to reward themselves & their "friends".

    ReplyDelete
  6. "I've written here extensively about BC HYDRO, BC FERRIES, BC RAIL and bcIMC."

    And let us not forget the HUGE cost overruns of the new Convention Centre and the new roof for BC Place. When you add it all up, the fast ferries "scandal" pales in comparison.

    And to rub salt in the wound the Liberals sold the ferries to Abu Dhabi Mar, a yacht-building company based in the United Arab Emirates. When the fast ferries were sold, the provincial budget declared a $52 million loss, which is nothing in comparison to the amount of taxpayer dollars the Libs have wasted since forming government.

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  7. I find it hard to believe that some use could not be found for the old Port Mann bridge. A sky park, a pedestrian walk way, bus lanes, large truck traffic route, emergency vehicle and marine facilities, an air traffic control facility, a tourist attraction,added evacuation route in case of a major disaster. Anything other then demolishing a beautiful and still serviceable structure.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Leaving it standing would be a reminder of the political mistake of taking it out of service. With 24 weeks before the May election, maybe there is a chance to save it.

      Read about High Line (New York City) and consider the possibilities for Port Mann.

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  8. I believe there were two other proposals to construct the 'new' Port Mann Bridge, neither of which considered replacing the existing structure. In fact, Kiewit's proposal never even met the proposal requirements, which were to provide another five lane crossing.
    So Kiewit's proposal was more cost effective than the other two? We don't know!
    Kiewit's proposal met with the financing requirements? No, it didn't, and should have been rejected as non-conforming? Probably! But better minds than ours decided otherwise!
    Why can't we, in this era of 'transparent government', be provided with the details so we can satisfy ourselves that 'better minds' are indeed 'better'?
    John's Aghast

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I can think of particular reasons that prevent disclosure of the business deals behind Gordon Campbell mega-projects.

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    2. The largest project Gordon Campbell ever attempted was ....Gordon Campbell. History will recall the sacrifice of great men, the unending effort of honest men and surely the decency of mere men. Gordon Campbell was none of these. A man so completely evil he corrupted any and all that he touched. Family and friends offered to the highest bidder. Some say he was assisted by a compliant media. Bullshit. This media is complicit. Such is the vileness of this man that those that once aspired for better now consider it an honor and a privilege to have shook his hand or have a picture taken in his grace. Innocent people being killed matters little when the reward is personal and significant.

      Delete

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