Report slams Airport Parkway pedestrian bridge project

An independent consulting firm has issued a stinging report to the City of Ottawa about the long-delayed pedestrian and cycling bridge over the Airport Parkway.

Report details three-year schedule delay, cost increase from $6.9M to $11.55M

Work crews at the site of the Airport Parkway pedestrian bridge in Dec. 2013. (City of Ottawa)

An independent consulting firm has issued a stinging report to the City of Ottawa about the long-delayed pedestrian and cycling bridge over the Airport Parkway.

The SEG Management Consultants report details how a series of problems resulted in a schedule delay of three years, and saw the project's cost balloon from $6.9 million to $11.55 million.

"There were deficiencies in the management of the project," the report said.

The bridge, originally scheduled to be complete in October 2011, is now expected to be complete in late 2014.

The report found that the project schedule did not change despite the early problems and that there was "limited evidence of rigorous schedule management prior to 2012." 

The initial delays shrunk the one-year construction period to just four months in what two bidders described as a "totally unrealistic" schedule, according to the report.

"SEG did not find any record of response from the City," the report said. "The difficulties encountered by the high profile of this project have generated significant public criticism; and the project is viewed as a failure by project staff, senior management and elected officials."

The report also pointed out that the City has a lack of performance indicators to monitor the delivery of its projects.

"The bridge project had significant issues. However, there are no comparable data to determine if this is an anomaly or a systemic problem," the report said.

Poor communication

Despite the public controversy and concern generated by the lack of progress on the bridge, the report said there was poor communication about the project.

"Communication with the public occurred at a variety of staff levels and with the public and elected officials without any apparent coordination or communications strategy."

The report went on to describe how the problems may not have intially been known by council or city staff.

"Even though there was significant email communication (both internally and externally) and monthly project reports, there is no documentation to indicate that senior management and elected officials were made aware of issues during the initial construction period of the project," the report said.

SEG said new management and protocols were developed after April 2012, which improved the roll out of the project.

"Facilitated scheduling meetings are now held on a regular basis and every attempt is made to forecast completion of critical tasks," the report said.

Committee to review recommendations

SEG submitted the report to the Finance and Economic Development Committee, along with nine recommendations to improve future projects. The report was posted online Tuesday evening prior to the committee's meeting on March 4.

Deputy city manager Nancy Schepers issued a memo to the mayor and city councillors about the report on Tuesday evening. She wrote that the City has already "moved proactively on several fronts" to improve project management protocols and that it will review SEG's recommendations to "better mitigate risks" in the future.

"SEG’s review recommends potential enhancements to the City’s project, communication and risk management policies and processes in order to mitigate future risks," the memo said. "While staff has not had an opportunity to review SEG’s findings in detail, I will be working closely with the General Manager of Infrastructure Services to develop and implement a set of actions to address each of them. Further, this action plan will include a process to evaluate progress against each of the recommendations and implementation of any necessary remedial or corrective action in respect of the department’s processes, procedures or personnel."