The players may have changed but the plan remains the same.
That’s how Quesnel Mayor Bob Simpson sums up the status of the proposed North-South Interconnector.
Simpson says they have an accepted potential project with the Ministry of Transportation but it likely time for Council to get an update.
“We have a new Minister, we have new senior staff in the Ministry of Transportation, our local District Manager has just retired. There is a new person at that level and we have a new project lead because the Project Lead for the interconnector has gone off on maternity leave.”
Simpson says he and the City Manager plan to meet with the new people before updating Council and the public.
“There is nothing to suggest that the project has been delayed in any way, or that it is on the backburner in any way. It’s just time for us now to make sure that it is a front burner project, and to make sure that the province is going to commit the necessary funding to take it to the next stage.”
Simpson says they need the province to commit just under a million dollars in funding to do all of the technical work, design work and the business case to turn it into an actual costed out project.
“My understanding is the next phase is an 18 month to two year planning phase. So what we would hope to see is a commitment from the province this fiscal year, They’re putting their budget together, that’s why the timing of this is important, the money to fund that planning stage.”
Simpson says at that stage they would be working with the province to try and get Federal Government funding, particularly for transportation infrastructure.
He says the last estimate they had was 300 to 350 million in 2020 dollars.
“It’s a very preliminary number but it suggests that this is a very cost effective project because the two bridges that are part of the project are the replacement bridges for the Quesnel River Bridge and the Railway Bridge that have to be replaced anyway. So what the number shows us is the added four-way stretch to bypass Downtown Quesnel, so that the highway traffic can flow through along the rail line, is not substantially additive to not do it at that time, because the bridge costs are the main part of the cost of the project.”
Simpson says the last estimate they received showed that the lifespan of those bridges was in the five to eight year range.
The rest of the project would be a new 3.7 kilometer section of Highway 97 from North Star Road to River Park Road.