British Columbia

Province to foot entire cost of new Port Mann Bridge

The provincial government announced Friday it will be footing the entire bill for the new Port Mann Bridge, after an attempt to reach an agreement through a public-private partnership failed.

The provincial government announced Friday it will pay the entire cost of the new Port Mann Bridge, after an attempt to reach an agreement through a public-private partnership failed.

Transportation Minister Kevin Falcon said as recently as late January that the province had almost reached a deal for the project, but he admitted on Friday that the parties could not agree on the terms.

"We would've liked to have gotten to an agreement," said Falcon. "We had a memorandum of agreement, but ultimately we were not able to come to closing terms, and that's just life."

The province instead entered into a fixed-price contract with two private companies in which it will pay $2.46 billion for the completion of the project.

Any cost overruns or construction delays will be the responsibility of the contractors.

The bridge is scheduled to be completed by 2013 and involves the construction of a new, 10-lane span and the widening and upgrading of Highway 1.

Costs for the project are expected to be recouped through electronic tolls, which will be approximately $3 on opening day.

A colossal failure: NDP

The NDP called the collapse of the public-private partnership a colossal failure.

"If you can't get financing for this kind of a project, where there's a guaranteed source of revenue over a lengthy period of time, what project can you get financing for?" said NDP Finance critic Bruce Ralston. "So we're back to government financing, but we've been delayed for years by this minister's stubborn insistence on doing it a different way, which has completely failed."

An official from the Canadian Taxpayers Federation insists the move is a dangerous one. 

"If it's too risky for a private sector company then it's also too risky for the taxpayers," said Maureen Bader. "So I think now is not the time to be going forward with these projects — to increase the debt even more than what we are already looking at. "

Under the previous arrangement, the province would provide one-third of the financing while a group of private developers was slated to provide the remaining two-thirds.