Friday, November 19, 2010

The Blue Bridge - Why voting No is the only responsible choice

I have a number of reasons for a No vote

Consultation:
Voting Yes rewards the council for refusing to engage in public consultation.   No matter how good a decision is, if it is arrived at through a very bad process the implication is that long term decision making will be impaired.   Remember, a stopped clock is still right twice a day.

The City should have engaged the public in consultation about the priorities for capital infrastructure in Victoria.   Consultation now has some very specific meanings within the law becuase of the numerous decisions in relation to government needs to consult with First Nations.

A proper consultative process includes the following:

  • Clear objectives about what is being consulted about
  • Enough time and information for the people being consulted with to be able to engage in the process
  • A open process by which information is gathered from the public
  • A process to reflect back to the public all the input received and comments on how this information will be used
  • A draft of what the action will be and how all the input from the public was used to create it.
  • A chance for the public to comment on the draft actions planned.
  • A detailed explanation of the decision to take action

The City has engaged in a public relations process and not in a consultation

Costs:
I have raised the issue of my concerns about the costs of a new bridge from the very start.   I still have seen nothing from the City that shows how there will be any cost certainty for the new bridge.  

The current cost estimates have the cost at $77,000,000 for a new bridge.   In looking over the cost estimates for the new bridge I believe that they are currently understated and do not have reasonable cost contingency built into the estimate.

Based on the experience of other bridge projects built by the public sector and not via a P3, it is safe to assume the current class 'C' estimate is likely about $20,000,000 to $40,000,000 too low.   There is a lot of data available on this from Bent Flybvjerg at Oxford.  The new bridge seems to be suffering from optimism bias, that is not to say that the people opposed to the new bridge are not doing the same for refurbishment.

I can hear you say "but the refurbishment will have the same issues".  Actually the class 'C' estimate for the big refurbishment has a much larger cost contingency built into and therefore is much less likely to widely off of the mark, though I still expect that if that is the route take the costs will be $10,000,000 to $20,000,000 more.

There is a lower cost option available.   The originally suggested 40 year upgrade of the bridge remains a viable option and would seem to be possible for in the range of $35,000,000 to $40,000,000 in my estimate based on the reports from the engineers.

My expectation of the final costs:

  • New Bridge - $100,000,000 to $120,000,000 - I was estimating this amount more than a year ago and the costs have kept getting closer and closer
  • Gold Refurbishment - $90,000,000 to $100,000,000
  • Normal Refurbishment - $35,000,000 to $40,000,000

I see no reason why the basic refurbishment, as highlighted by the engineers,  is not on the table.

The City is not borrowing enough money to build the new bridge if there are any cost overruns and have no plan in place for when they run out of money.   To not accept that the project is more likely to go over budget is  irresponsible.   There is no Plan B for the probable cost over run.

Without a clear Plan B for a cost overrun and no indication of how the budget will be maintained, voting Yes is irresponsible.
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