Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Money Shuffling Conundrum

This has been said on my site before, more than once, but I will reiterate because of Bart Kives' better-late-than-never bike lane coverage that continues today, briefly mentions the Omands Creek AT project.

Perhaps I should be writing slightly more professionally and sending this kind of thing to the op-ed department at the FreeP, because there is certainly no analysis like this in said newspaper. How could there be? No journalist at the FreeP has been following these bike projects for half the time I have. Anyway, time for a Gordon Sinclair Juniorism.

But I digress.

The project was a one million dollar street-level bridge over a creek that required no environmental study or communication with Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO). What I will reiterate, is a simple deduction I put forward a year ago.

The City puts up 1/3 of the cost of each AT project. For a one million dollar project, that means some $333 333 bucks. The residents wanted an improved bridge, Bill Woroby said no because there was no federal money for that. I call BS. At this point, you do not need federal money to improve a tiny pedestrian bridge over a babbling brook. You can use the $333 333 you set aside anyhow, as THAT money, is City money, and was allocated to AT Projects, and is not contingent on whether or not the Feds contribute.

Now this is in Kives' piece today:

"One project, a $1-million bridge in Omand Park, was cancelled and replaced with $100,000 worth of path improvements"

This means the City is paying for all of it, because Woroby told us the Feds wouldn't approve funding for minor improvements. This means the city has $233 333 left in the kitty from the money originally set aside for Omands Creek.

The Assiniboine Avenue Bike Path Project, Jenny Gerbasi consistently reminds us (remember!?), that the Assiniboine project MUST go ahead and we MUST do it the way the consultants want because that way we have access to the federal buck. That we MUST do it, to save money, even if it's wrong, to fix it later.

How much is the Assiniboine project? Well, it's a total of $120 000. The City kicks in their third, $40 000.

Holy red tape and accounting services from a non-certified-CA, batman! You mean, the City could have told the Feds "thanks but no thanks" and put almost DOUBLE the amount of total project money towards a BETTER solution on Assiniboine?

Hypothetically yeah, that's what it seems. Will it cost $233 333 to rip up this silly curb in the middle of Assiniboine? Probably, at least.

At the end of the day, it won't matter if the street reverts to "normal." The cyclists won't be pissed off about the loss of a cycle track. Hell, a lot of cyclists, and some of those cyclists have left comments right here on my website (thank you), saying Assiniboine was a no-brainer route for them to take...BEFORE this all happened. It was a quiet thoroughfare for both cars and cyclists. Traffic calming wasn't needed because traffic was already calm, and furthermore, both cyclists and residents alike testify that vehicles speeding up and down Assiniboine wasn't an issue.

Now that I know how much money the City is approximately saving by simply just using already allocated City dollars to the Omands Creek fiasco, in my mind is further proof to the ineptitude of not the consultants this time, but Bill Woroby and Kevin Nixon.

How could an engineer in charge of all this stand in front of a room of 400 angry residents asking for simple improvements to their bridge, and tell them over and over that the Federal dollars had to be used? How could an engineer at public works, not have guestimated that the cost of a simple improvement would have cost far less than $333 333?

Hey, with $333 333 you can not only build improvements to already existing infrastructure, but you could probably pay for an environmental assessment and for DFO's opinion, too. And probably plant more trees to replace the ones the kids burn down there for fun when they're drunk.

Then again, maybe some of that $333 333 would be better spent planting more trees on Berry Street. No worries, there's lots of AT fuckups to patch up here and there, after the fact.

14 comments:

bwalzer said...

I am not sure what you mean by "simple improvements". I was at the Omands Creek Bridge meeting. The consultants explained at some length why the proposed improvements to the existing bridge were impractical. Has something changed since then?

Graham said...

The reasoning behind the impracticality of improvements was because said improvements could not utilize federal stimulus money.

If now "simple improvements," if Kives' article is correct, amount to $100 000, I'm not sure what the details are. But I'll take it to mean at least the trail and existing bridge gets repaved.

Addy said...

"400 angry residents asking for simple improvements to their bridge" I thought the residents of Wolseley (in particular the WRE) were against the improvements to the bridge to begin with? At least that's what I heard from a forming member of WRE at a meeting about six months ago... so I'm confused why 400 angry residents would be asking for improvements? Were these 400 non-Wolseley residents?

bwalzer said...

@Graham

I remember the major suggestion involved simply raising the approaches and the bridge. As this would involve restricting the flow of the creek approval from the federal agency responsible for waterways would have to somehow be obtained. There were issues with accessibility for the disabled. I am afraid I do not remember all the things suggested.

bwalzer said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
bwalzer said...

@Addy

The survey responses for the Omand's Creek bridge meeting are here. Only 15% of the people at the meeting were interested in upgrading the existing bridge. There were 38% who wanted to upgrade the park (which I guess is what will eventually be done). There were 27% who actually wanted the new bridge.

Graham said...

I have a live blog post if you do not remember, it is in my archives.

To recap:

Residents of Wolsely rejected the street level bridge, favouring local improvements instead (WHATEVER they may have been).

An environmental assesment for the street level bridge was not required. This is beyond silly. ANYthing to do with the creek would need such a study. Except, the City of Winnipeg got a blanket statement from the Feds exonerating them from any environmental study of any kind.

Because of that, Woroby argued against simple improvements because without federal dollars, he would need an environmental assesment as soon as the plan involves ANYTHING BUT what they have proposed. The blanket statement only covers what the Feds approved, and what the Feds approved, was not what residents wanted.

Which you can apply to every other AT Project: any "consultation" that resulted in disagreement with the already-approved plans, was null and void, because any changes to the plans means that they lose the Federal Stim money.

To answer questions: no, the residents were not against upgrades and a new bridge; the environmental assesment has nothing to do with water flow but rather the fact a waterway is involved in ANY fashion; and yes the 400 in attendance weeeere from Wolsely. If you can recall, the furor was that the street level bridge would decimate the local toboggan hill, where generations of children have tobogganed.

One of the main issues here was that the existing bridge is old, vandalized, and poses a safety hazard as it is poorly designed. But even still, it is a tiiiiny bridge. $300 000 more than covers a new bridge and new pavement.

unclebob said...

Graham
People keep whining about the loss of 66% Federal funding.
This needs to be corrected. 33% may be at risk but the other 33% which comes from the Province has never been threatened.

bwalzer said...

What was the story with people calling for environmental assessments anyway? Most of these projects were changes to existing paved streets. The proposed Omands Creek bridge went above the creek. It didn't really affect the creek at all. I am not sure what possible negative environmental impacts these projects could have.

The existing bridge itself is fine and in good repair. The problems stem from the location of it. It is at water level causing flooding and the required steep approaches. A bridge at road level is the only reasonable proposal I have heard to date that would improve the situation.

Graham said...

The reason was because the project in question, involved a waterway, Omands Creek.

ANY construction with ANY waterway is a sensitive issue and should require environmental study. In this day and age, building a street level bridge over a creek, and having an engineer tell you they are exempt from environmental impact studies in order to meet deadlines, is atrociously ludicrous.

ANY construction with ANY waterway REQUIRES involvement of DFO.

It also stands to reason that if any of the other 36 bike projects had any kind of environmental issue that may come into play, it would be ignored because of the blanket statement powers given to the AT people. Perhaps the residents of Berry would not be losing their trees, for example.

One of the primary reasons after all, for constructing bike paths, is to get an environmental benefit. As we see with some of the projects coughAssiniboinecough, there are huge environmental detriments casued by severe gridlock.

One wonders is they had an environmental consultant on hand if any or all of these projects might have been done a little differently.

Graham said...

@BWalzer

Were we at different meetings? The meeting I went to, a good portion of residents did not mind an extra half-mile loop around the creek via Portage during springtime. Another good portion viewed a street level bridge as excessive. Another good portion viewed the existing bridge as a safety concern, though they have since taken out the posts that made it dangerous in the first place.

bwalzer said...

@Graham

I am afraid I have lost you. What are you referring to in particular?

Lori said...

Graham, thank you for all the hard work you've been doing to keep Winnipegers informed about what's going on around here. Without you and a few others we'd all be whistling in the dark. Now, the next problem is who to vote for: Sam - nope; Judy - nope; someone who's never seen the inside of city hall before - sigh...

Graham said...

@Walzer

Mostly "the bridge is fine and in good shape..." I distinctly remember a good number of residents complaining of graffiti and things, and cyclists complaining of the posts that (used) to be in the middle of the bridge on both sides.