Pat Bay Highway near Keating Cross Road has been the site of 47 collisions between 2016 and 2020, according to ICBC. The province has promised $57.6 million toward the Highway 17 Keating Cross Overpass Project now totaling $76.8 milion. While local voices have questioned the cost over-runs, they have also welcomed the safety improvements. (Black Press Media file photo)

Pat Bay Highway near Keating Cross Road has been the site of 47 collisions between 2016 and 2020, according to ICBC. The province has promised $57.6 million toward the Highway 17 Keating Cross Overpass Project now totaling $76.8 milion. While local voices have questioned the cost over-runs, they have also welcomed the safety improvements. (Black Press Media file photo)

Budget for Central Saanich flyover goes off ramp by 73%

While the cost overruns are painful, improvements are necessary, say local voices

The projected 73 per cent cost increase of the proposed flyover overpass in Central Saanich is painful, but safety trumps finances, maintains the chair of a local taxpayers’ advocacy group.

John Treleaven, chair of Grumpy Taxpayer$ of Greater Victoria, made the comment after the province last week announced $57.6 million in funding for the project now totalling $76.8 million. Estimates in 2019 had pegged the cost at about $44 million following contributions from Ottawa ($16.7 million) and Central Saanich ($2.5 million).

Plans call for a flyover overpass for northbound travel exiting Pat Bay Highway onto Keating Cross Road. Vehicles must currently turn left across southbound traffic at the notorious intersection, which has recorded 47 collisions between 2016 and 2020, according to ICBC.

Treleaven said this is not a good time for any project, but safety concerns won’t go away and will only get worse.

“Swallow it (the cost increase) now or swallow it in the future … we shouldn’t be driven by accidents, we should be driven by safety concerns.”

RELATED: Province promises $57.6M toward Central Saanich overpass project at Keating

Provincial plans call for construction to be completed in 2025 with tenders going out this fall.

Central Saanich Mayor Ryan Windsor welcomed Friday’s announcement while acknowledging a substantial cost increase. “Obviously, it is more expensive than what had been originally anticipated,” he said. “But I suppose these things will occur from time to time. Lots of cost pressures on about everything these days.”

Local MLA Adam Olsen also acknowledged the cost increase, but also pointed out that costs will only go up.

RELATED: Province promises $57.6M toward Central Saanich overpass project at Keating

“We need to be honest and be forthright about the fact that this is an expensive project,” said Olsen. “I will be asking the questions about that from a finance perspective, from an accountability perspective. But on the other hand, it is important that these projects get underway, because we are seeing inflation all over the place.”

Both Olsen and Windsor stressed the importance of the project to the local and regional economy.

“We can’t ignore the fact that some of the most important industrial lands in the Capital Region are on the other side of that intersection,” said Olsen. “We can’t ignore that Butchart Gardens, one of the key tourist attractions in the region is on the other side of the intersection.”

Theses investments needed to happen decades ago, but they did not, said Olsen. “We are now saddled with that cost of inaction,” he said.

Windsor predicts improved access will spur additional growth in Central Saanich’s industrial area.

But while locals agree that the upgrades are needed, Treleaven also questioned the government’s decision to release the announcement by press release Friday afternoon with no supporting rationale.

“Adult conversations (about the cost of government) involve information and transparency, because these are the most difficult times for anyone,” he said. “We all understand that. Just get the facts out.”

RELATED: Planned highway flyover will meet Pat Bay traffic’s ‘highest priority needs,’ ministry says

The Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure later blamed rising steel prices, ground conditions, property acquisition costs and a larger contingency for the increase without addressing questions about the announcement’s timing.

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