Canadian Consulting Engineer

Big project delays in Edmonton and Toronto: the media speaks

November 30, 2016


“Let’s start with the good news for council. [Councillor Michael] Walters says enthusiasm abounds for the good work the city has done building recreation centres, arenas and other infrastructure. ‘The people of Edmonton want us to build.’

“The bad news? Anxiety and anger over the numerous major projects that have run into multi-year delays. Three snafus stand out:

– The $155-million Walderdale Bridge was supposed to open in the fall of 2015, but now won’t open until midway through 2017, about two years late, first because of delays in steel shipments from the project’s Korean supplier and now due to the complexity of building an arched bridge.


– The $665-million Metro Line LRT was supposed to open in May 2014, but it’s still not running at full speed due to computer glitches in the signalling system.

– The $32-million 102 Avenue bridge over Groat Road was supposed to open in September 2015, but construction was set back in spectacular fashion when three girders buckled because they had not been properly braced. It only opened in July.

— David Staples, “Councillors consider steps to avoid future screw-ups on big infrastructure projects,” Edmonton Journal, November 23.

To read the article, click here.


“From the days of the pyramids to pipelines today, big infrastructure projects have one thing in common: they are hardly ever on time or on budget. It doesn’t matter whether they are publicly owned or private; extensive delays and massive cost overruns are the norm.
“Why? You might well ask, as have many an enraged investor, politician and voter over the centuries. It is, as they say, complicated.

“The array of culprits is long and intertwined:

–    Deliberate low bidding — knowing that supplemental payments can be extracted later.

–    Inadequate project specifications — leading to expensive later corrections.

–    Slapdash engineering and design — because a quick launch is more important for politicians and proponents.

–    Project ‘creep’ — baubles added under political pressure, and on and on.

“The thread that connects them all today is a lack of accountability or consequence. Project sponsors, designers, builders, and political overseers rarely suffer for their incompetence or collusion.

“This is a problem of governance not ownership. The Vaughan subway extension is disastrously over-budget as an entirely publicly owned and bungled TTC project. So was the privately built and owned CPR a century ago, and the SkyDome, a generation ago. Each was marked by a failure to accurately anticipate, execute, and monitor project costs — and by the failure to impose sanctions.”

— Robin V. Sears, “Why Infrastructure Projects Need P3s,” Toronto Star, November 27.

To read the article, click here.



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