British Columbia

Victoria bus lanes delayed by rising construction costs

New transit lanes aimed at easing the gridlock for buses in Victoria have been put on hold due to rising construction costs.

Delay shows lack of commitment to transit in capital region, says transit advocate

Construction was set to begin shortly to add more shared bus and bike lanes on Douglas Street. (Megan Thomas/CBC)

New transit lanes aimed at easing gridlock for buses in Victoria have been put on hold due to rising construction costs.

Work was supposed to begin shortly to add more bus-only lanes on busy sections of Douglas Street — one of the region's busiest transit corridors with up to 88 buses per hour during peak times.

But the project has been delayed because all of the bids came in at least 30 per cent over the roughly $2.1 million budget for the project. 

"There are no companies right now either with manpower, with product, or with enough interest in this project to have come in around the budget," said Susan Brice, chair of the Greater Victoria Transit Commission.

"People are working and there is a lot being built, and that is a tremendous thing, but it does make it very competitive."

The plan includes the addition of a southbound transit lane from Tolmie Avenue to Hillside Avenue and a northbound transit lane from Tolmie Avenue to Saanich Road.

Vancovuer Island saw increases in building permits, non-residential building construction investment, and construction employment in the second quarter of 2016. (Mike McArthur/CBC)

Delay frustrates transit users

The new bus lanes will go out for tender again in the fall after staff have pored over the design to see if there's a way to reduce the cost of the project, Brice said.

In the meantime, buses will continue to get stuck in the gridlock that is common on Douglas Street during the morning and evening rush hour.  

Eric Doherty, a transportation planning consultant and member of the Better Transit Alliance of Greater Victoria, said delaying infrastructure that will get get buses moving is unacceptable.

"Our present provincial government, doesn't put a high priority on public transit in this region," he said.

"To me, part of the reason the provincial government feels that they can neglect transit is that our local representatives are not being vocal enough in demanding better transit."

The delay comes while Greater Victoria's construction industry is booming, with everything from major highway expansions to condo towers underway.

Other infrastructure projects, including a highway overpass in Langford and pedestrian bridges in Victoria, have also been delayed because of a lack of on-budget bids from construction firms.