Here’s why Victoria’s bike lane project cost $65.5M, nearly double original price

Here’s why Victoria’s bike lane project cost $65.5M, nearly double original price

The City of Victoria says its all ages and abilities (AAA) cycling network project, which is in its final stages, cost an estimated $65.5 million to build, nearly double the original price tag set in 2016.

Eight years ago, the city estimated it would cost $37.1 million to build 25.1 kilometres of its AAA cycling network.

Now, the city says the new price tag is due to upping that distance from 25 kilometres to over 33 kilometres today, and because of concurrent infrastructure upgrades that weren’t part of the original scope of the project.

“Over time, what we’ve taken on is a much more broader approach to improve other road assets as we go to minimize long-term costs and also impacts to the public,” said Ross Kenny, assistant director of transportation at City of Victoria.

The city says it completed sidewalk and crosswalk upgrades, installed new traffic lights and completed underground utility improvements alongside the installation of some of the new bike lanes.

“As we’ve kind of learned over the years, again, the importance for the public and getting really good value for taxpayers is making sure that we do things just once. Not just doing bike lanes but ensuring we’re looking after our roads,” said Kenny.

It also says construction costs have climbed over the past decade, and notes that some of the cost was covered by other levels of government, as well as grants and partnerships.

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While many portions include “funding from external partners” the exact cost to the city can be difficult to parse.

The longest stretch of the AAA cycling network, the 2.7-kilometre-long stretch of protected bike lanes along Fort Street between Cook Street and Foul Bay Road, cost $9.4 million to build, for instance, with $3.6 million of that total coming from the federal government.

Gorge Road, one of the last parts of the project that started this week, has the highest project cost at $13.1 million.

A breakdown of the costs of each leg of the project can be found below:

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A breakdown of the costs is shown. May 1, 2024. (City of Victoria)

Taxpayer group’s concerns

Stan Bartlett, vice chair of Grumpy Taxpayers of Greater Victoria, says the ballooning price should be reviewed before a single additional metre of bike lanes are paved.

“Generally, Grumpy Taxpayers has been supportive of bike lanes over the years at $36 million. At more than double that, we’re certainly less supportive,” he said.

He says that the value per dollar should be examined, like how much the bike lanes are being used and how they are benefitting the community, as well as any safety concerns, such as access for emergency vehicles and concerns for people who are visually impaired or who have mobility issues.

He also questions if now is the right time to commit more money to the project.

“There’s a lot of needs out there, public safety, drug abuse, housing, infrastructure – in particular roads are still in shambles in this city,” said Bartlett.

“One of the questions that should be asked is how much did we spend on road repairs during that same period of time?” he said.

In regards to the $28 million contributed through grants and the federal government, the money is still coming from taxpayers, just through different streams, said Bartlett.

Voices of support

Doug Baer, co-chair of the advocacy committee for Capital Bikes, says the cost of bike lanes should be kept in perspective, considering there were other infrastructure upgrades that were completed alongside the project.

He echoes the city’s message that construction costs have increased since the project was first conceived in 2016, and adds that road construction costs and maintenance still far outpaces bike lane costs.

“Let’s put this in perspective, shall we? How much did the Keating Overpass cost? As far as we know it’s going to cost taxpayers at least $79 million for one overpass for cars off the Pat Bay highway,” said Baer.

While the overpass is being largely split between the provincial and federal governments, Baer says the $65 million spent on bike lanes by the City of Victoria and the federal government will benefit a wider range of people.

“For $65 million we got a continuous network, we got increased use by bicyclists, taking away cars from downtown Victoria, not only benefitting pedestrians and cyclists but also cars,” he said. 

“You have fewer cars in competition for parking spots, you have fewer cars for competing anywhere.”

He added that while B.C. tries to increase the amount of housing that’s built in the province, it’s important to improve bike infrastructure to further reduce traffic congestion, particularly since Victoria has its eyes on housing density.

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Victoria’s AAA cycling network is pictured as of May 1, 2024. (City of Victoria)

The AAA bike lane network isn’t the first Victoria project to go over budget.

The Johnson Street bridge, which opened in 2018, was completed at a cost of $105 million, nearly twice the original budget of $63 million, and opened three years later than the initial target of 2015. 

The construction debacle spawned multiple lawsuits and an audit by the provincial government.

READ MORE: Gorge Road bike lane improvements start Monday as eight-year project nears completion


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