Last Thursday, the City of Kingston revealed the preliminary design and business plan for the proposed third crossing, which suggests that the controversial project would cost taxpayers $60 million more than initially projected. The $180 million price tag is the result of changes to the bridge’s design and construction, land acquisition, and a sizable $34 million factored in for inflation based upon a 2019 construction start date. The revised details pertaining to a possible bridge connecting the east and west banks of the Cataraqui River were released in advance of a pair of upcoming open houses scheduled for this week where the city will solicit additional feedback enabling the development of the final draft plan for a possible third crossing.
Reactions to the revised design and cost have been predictably split, with opponents of the proposed bridge rightfully highlighting the probability of the $180 million price tag continuing to rise, and dubious renderings (see below) showing would-be residents strolling along the bridge to fictitious destinations on either side. Advocates however, were quick to latch onto this past weekend’s planned and widely publicized closure of the LaSalle Causeway, which resulted in lengthy commutes along highway 15, as proof that the bridge is needed, no matter the cost to taxpayers or the environment.
Recently, Mayor Patterson reiterated his support for the third crossing, however that endorsement comes with some definitive caveats and conditions:
…constructing the Third Crossing must not require a property tax rate increase. …the city’s share of the Third Crossing must fit within our existing capital investment plans. We have several road and infrastructure projects planned for the coming years, and the Third Crossing will have to fit within this plan. That means that we will also need both the provincial and federal governments to come to the table to invest in the Third Crossing.
Based upon the current cost estimate of $180 million, plans call for both the federal and provincial governments to contribute $60 million each, leaving $60 million on the backs of local taxpayers. That balance is optimistically estimated to cost each household an additional $18 to $20 more per year – so long as funding comes through as expected, and construction costs stay on budget. With money on my mind, this week’s poll asks:
Personally, I’m still counting myself as one of the growing number of people who are opposed to building a third crossing. It could very likely take longer to build, and cost more than expected, and that added debt will be ours to service, regardless of whether or not you ever step foot on the bridge. Considering the significant long-term implications for us all, perhaps it’s time we start giving serious thought to deciding the fate of the third crossing by referendum. That way, similar to the fate of the casino, we can be assured that the decision pertaining to this unprecedented infrastructure project is made by us, rather than for us via City Council. And if by chance the project is given the green light and funding comes through, let’s keep discussing the role that tolls on the third crossing should play in offsetting those aforementioned unforeseen costs, as well as long-term maintenance and upkeep.