Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Feds Ordered Savings Review for Gordie Howe Bridge over Cost Concerns: Documents

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Feds Ordered Savings Review for Gordie Howe Bridge over Cost Concerns: Documents

Article excerpt

New Windsor bridge prompted cost concerns

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OTTAWA - Officials overseeing construction of a new cross-border bridge in Windsor, Ont., cobbled together a variety of cost-saving measures on government orders over concerns that expenses were in danger of exceeding spending targets, newly released documents show.

Internal and external advisers helped officials find savings on the Gordie Howe International Bridge "without significantly changing the risk" to the government, noted one slide from a presentation that was delivered to senior government officials last October. Insiders say the Crown agency overseeing the project heard concerns from the three bidders vying to build and operate the bridge about meeting the government's budget expectations.

A group of deputy ministers was briefed about the spending review, the effects on cash flow, the risks to private capital and project timelines. All dollar figures have been blacked out from the documents obtained by The Canadian Press under the Access to Information Act on the grounds the information could harm Canada's economic and financial interests.

The Liberals will find out in the next few weeks if the savings identified in the "affordability review" will yield the intended results when financial bids are filed.

The winning bid will be selected in June and construction is expected to start in the fall with work to take four to five years to complete. The entire bridge project is expected to cost $4.8 billion.

Infrastructure Minister Amarjeet Sohi said all of decisions on the project were aimed at "de-risking the project as much as we could to move forward."

In return, the government and the private company that is to build and operate the new crossing together hope to collect enough toll revenue over the first 30 years of its life to recoup the cost. If revenues over that time fall short, federal officials expect to recoup spending over the total life of the bridge -- 99 years.

"The project has to get done, otherwise the consequences would be catastrophic to the Canadian economy," said NDP MP Brian Masse, who represents a Windsor riding. …

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