The West LRT project is turning out to be more expensive than originally expected. Land prices are steadily going up, which is helping push the price tag to more than the latest figure of $1.46 billion. Last Wednesday, representatives of West LRT as well as city officials were questioned about the cost. They also faced questions about the $35 million shortfall discovered previously, and the fact that no money had been set aside for public art, which was against council policy.
It became clear that next year there will be a demand for additional funds because of the continued increase in property values and because 14 of the remaining claims have not been taken care off. Some of the alderman expressed frustration that the original budget, set in 2007 has seen so many changes without understanding the potential risks. Druh Farrell, one of the aldermen, noted that there is an outstanding bill with nothing to pay it with.
Also noted was that the $1.46 billion price tag was never made public. This money is to cover all related construction, the buying of the additional LRT cars, and carrying costs, which are considerable, on loans already taken out to fund the West LRT. All of this was approved by council via a number of reports that followed the original approval in 2007. One particular issue that grates is the $61 million pulled from the city’s contingency fund to pay for putting part of the line around 17th Avenue and 45th Street underground, not part of or budgeted in the original proposal.