Nenshi ‘needs answers’ after Southwest Transitway cost estimate jumps $25M

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WATCH ABOVE: The battle over the southwest transit way is taking a new turn after the city released new cost estimates showing the price tag has jumped dramatically. Gary Bobrovitz reports – Apr 18, 2016

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi and two city councillors say they “need answers” after an updated report from the city suggested between a $17 to $25 million increase in the estimated cost for the Southwest Transitway project.

A 2010 functional study for the project originally pegged the cost at $40 million; Friday’s report estimated it would be between $57 to $65.6 million.

“Although this cost escalation can be accommodated in the overall council-approved budget for the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) program, we need answers to fully understand how such a significant change could occur,” a joint statement from Nenshi, Ward 11 councillor Brian Pincott, and Ward 13 councillor Diane Colley-Urquhart said.

The statement called for a detailed explanation for the increase in cost and “a detailed understanding of the phasing and timing for this project.” They also want an update on city meetings with ATCO and the “interaction of this project with commercial and residential applications that are coming forward within the 14 Street S.W. and 90 Avenue S.W. corridors.”

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The Southwest Transitway project has been a controversial topic in the city. Nenshi decided to cancel all open houses in February due to what he described as a death threat against a city worker and bullying of various staff members. Calgary police subsequently investigated and determined no cause for charges.

READ MORE: Nenshi cancels Southwest Transitway open houses amid alleged death threat, bullying

The transitway project on 14 Street S.W. had already been approved and funded; construction could start this year. The meetings were meant to fine tune its design.

Nenshi and the councillors suggested the difference in cost estimates signals a larger potential problem with the city’s capital budgeting process and committed to working with administration to make sure questions are answered at an April 20 Transit and Transportation Committee meeting.

“We need to clearly define, now more than ever, how to better align council’s approval process so that approvals occur with greater understanding and greater cost certainty,” the statement reads.

READ MORE: Concerned Calgarians rally against bus rapid transit project