Work Grinds to a Halt, a Full Year Behind Schedule

The Spencer Road Interchange (also known as the Bear Mountain Interchange) was scheduled for completion in May 2009. As of August 2009, it appears abandoned. All the heavy equipment, construction crews, and security personnel were withdrawn from the construction site in early July. Gravel roadbeds and a concrete overpass sit unfinished and empty.

Observers suggest that the city of Langford has already spent its $10 million line of credit from TD Bank, and that no money is forthcoming from the property developers the interchange would serve. Meanwhile, Langford's application for a Building Canada Fund grant for the interchange and the connecting road to Bear Mountain Resort appears to be in limbo. In the Goldstream Gazette, MP Keith Martin complains that he can't get a response from Ottawa about taxpayer funding for the project.

The city's application for federal and provincial grant money is controversial. Critics note that the project was billed as "100% funded by the developers" both in verbal promises to voters and in bylaws adopted by the city.

The most serious charge dogging the grant application is that the funding would amount to a cash gift to the developers, a practice forbidden by the Local Government Act. Any borrowing to cover the municipal portion of the grant would also be subject to a referendum by petition. Langford circumvented this step in 2008 by declaring the interchange a "Local Area Service" that would be paid for by the property owners who stand to benefit. However, the city can't have it both ways. Either the interchange is a Local Area Service and funded by the developers, or it is a public-funded project and the voters can approve or reject the spending in a referendum.

More infrastructure grant awards are expected to be announced in September, 2009. Original construction schedule here.

No comments: