Evergreen Line delay costs lead to mediation, B.C. government hiding info on costs, changes and challenges

SNC-Lavalin and the provincial government are in mediation over cost overruns at...

A bored tunnel in Port Moody on the Evergreen Line | Photo: Government of British Columbia

(Scroll to bottom of the story to view the Stantec reports for TransLink on the Broadway subway proposal, the SDG/HMM reports for TransLink on the Surrey LRT proposal, and the Evergreen Line change order logs for 2016 and for 2014/15.)

SNC-Lavalin and the provincial government are in mediation over cost overruns at the Evergreen Line rapid transit project, Business in Vancouver has learned.

SNC-Lavalin’s infrastructure and construction division took a nearly $27 million hit in 2015’s second quarter, and it laid part of the blame on “challenging soil conditions.” Tunnel boring was stalled for five months last year, delaying plans to complete the $1.43 billion Millennium Line extension from summer 2016 to fall 2016. Last November, the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure said it would open in early 2017.

“SNC-Lavalin does not comment on ongoing mediation or litigation,” said Louis-Antoine Paquin, the company’s media relations manager, who referred BIV to the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure.

Amanda Farrell, the government’s project manager, did not respond for comment, but an emailed statement from the Ministry claimed the project is on budget and said EGRT Construction, the SNC-led consortium, is responsible for any costs associated with schedule delays.

“As with any ongoing contract of this size and complexity, we remain in discussions with the contractor during the project in order to ensure the taxpayers’ interests are represented and the project follows the contract,” according to the statement, which was sent by spokeswoman Trish Rorison.

The B.C. government hired the troubled Montreal engineering and construction firm in 2012 on an $889 million fixed-price contract after SNC-Lavalin accepted the risk of geotechnical conditions in the tunnel. The project geotechnical report in 2011 by Golder Associates said there were variable soil conditions, clays, minerals, boulders and groundwater on the route.

The ministry is also blocking attempts to determine the cost impacts of project delays and scope changes.

It censored all dollar figures from the construction change order log released under Freedom of Information, claiming it feared disclosure would harm government finances and third-party business interests. The more than 75 changes to the project include additions to bus loops, extra costs for public art installations at stations, removal of Compass fare gate barriers at five stations and a dual 700MHz/800MHz radio band to be compatible with E-Comm requirements.

The ministry is also demanding payment of $960 before it will release all monthly project status reports since January 2014.

Meanwhile, TransLink is withholding nearly all content from 683 pages of expert reports it commissioned about the proposed Broadway subway and Surrey light rail projects.

The reports are about the design and business case for the projects, but TransLink claimed the information is subject to change and disclosure could harm commercial negotiations.

Among the seven partially visible pages in a November report by Stantec about the Broadway plan is a description of the work.

“(Phase 3A) includes exploration of environmental and First Nation issues, potential issues below grade along Broadway including geotechnical conditions, utilities and a crossing/connection to the Canada Line, issues surrounding transfers to the station locations, operations considerations, station design, accessibility, safety, level of station head-house intrusion at the surface onto the public space and the future extension of rapid trains to UBC. The study includes intermodal transfer challenges at Arbutus and Cambie stations.”

Experts have met regularly with TransLink and City of Vancouver staff. Officials from the University of British Columbia, the transport ministry and PartnershipsBC were invited to key meetings.

“The level of design of project components varies and is commensurate with the Phase 3A objective to ensure a reasonable level of confidence (+/- 30%) in project cost and revenue estimates and to progress essential business case inputs,” the report said. “Subsequent phases of work will further advance this design to inform funding and procurement decisions.”

The Broadway proposal was budgeted at $1.98 billion in 2012. In March, Surrey city staff told council that the Surrey project cost had increased by $500 million to $2.6 billion. Steer Davies Gleave and Hatch Mott MacDonald are leading that study.

TransLink CFO Cathy McLay would not provide new cost estimates after the March 30 board meeting, but said officials were wrestling with the rising cost of real estate and the drop in the Canadian dollar. Experts were given another three months, until the end of June, to finish their final reports, she said.

Broadway 3A FOI Release 2016-112 by BobMackin

Surrey 3A - FOI Release 2016-113 by BobMackin

TRA-2016-60929 by BobMackin

TRA-2015-53862 by BobMackin