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BC Liberals pat themselves on the back over SFPR ‘highway’ opening a year late and $464 million over budget

I’ll give the BC Liberals this: they sure know how to crank out a photo-op and they know how to spin a deuce into silk and make it look like they invented it.

Case in point, the grand opening the of much heralded… and criticized… South Fraser Perimeter Road -aka Highway 17 ( the old highway 17 is renamed 17A).

Spin, rinse, repeat.

Yes indeed all the politicians came out to glad hand and pat backs, including Rich Coleman, Peter Fassbender, Barinder Rasode, Todd Stone, Nina Grewal and Kerry-Lynne Findlay.

Remarkably enough, they even managed to tie this project that is over a year late in completion, to Christy Clarks biggest failure to date, the BC Jobs Plan:

“Completing the SFPR was a key goal in the province’s Pacific Gateway Transportation Strategy, which supports the ‘The BC Jobs Plan’ to expand markets for B.C. products and strengthen infrastructure to get goods to market, ensuring B.C is North America’s gateway for Asia-Pacific trade.

The SFPR will generate economic and business opportunities and lead to 7,000 long-term jobs in Delta and Surrey through improved industrial development opportunities along the corridor.”

But what is more ridiculous than claiming that the South Fraser Perimeter Road will lead to 7,000 jobs ( how the Liberals get these numbers no one really knows) , is this this little gem on the press release:


On-time and On-budget?

Some of you will have caught this… and will be laughing, scoffing or otherwise shaking your head in disbelief, but for those of you not privy to the joke, the punchline is “ SFPR opens on-time and on-budget.” This is a Liberal patented tag-line, and is a complete fabrication. They count on very few reporters knowing the full history of this project that was plagued with problems from day 1.

In July  of 2008 when the project was announced and the Requests for Qualifications went out,the press release with it stated construction would start in 2009 and completion was 2012.

In early 2009, the short list of consortiums were issued the Request for Proposals and again, the completion date was stated as 2012.

However, something went wrong between April 2009 and May 2o10, the date of the next press release that announced who the successful bidder was: not only had a major change had been made in the corporate makeup of the winning bidder, but the completion date had suddenly been delayed for an entire year, with no explanation given!

BC Liberal Claim number 1 -South Fraser Perimeter Road on time?  False.

Let’s talk budget now.

In 2006, the  construction budget in future dollars for the SFPR was estimated at approx.  $700 million dollars.

However, rising costs of land expropriations drove that cost far higher ( a very disgusting but routine story in itself when it comes to Ministry of Transportation projects, see my end links for how the MOT conducts its land deals…), and the Liberals announced that an additional ‘contingency’ was set for $300,000. ( what budget doesn’t include a contingency, I don’t know..but that’s how the Libs work)

In fact, in August of 2010, it was announced that the ministry had increased the budget by $37 million found in savings to other capital projects… never saying where those savings had come from:

*Total cost of construction upon announcement: $700-800 million dollars (  it depends on which press release you look at- it changes)

*Total cost being heralded by politicians today? $1.26 billion dollars. ( this figure also varies depending on past press reports)

*Total actual cost overruns according to my calculations ?  approx. $264 million – or around a 40-45% increase

BC Liberal Claim number 2- South Fraser Perimeter Road on Budget? False

What else the BC Liberals press release didn’t tell the public

Beyond the fallacy that this project was on time and on budget, the press release failed to mention a number of other items. The project was plagued by controversy from the beginning:

-Even losing bidders win, when it comes to the BC Government… who hands out million dollar stipends to losing bidders to compensate them for their time and expense. SFPR included.

-Despite the fact it was pushed as a nonstop freeway route where trucks did not have to stop and idle, and despite the massive cost overruns, the project was still downgraded significantly from a highway with no stops, to a highway with lighted intersections… intersections that would not only result in congestion on opening day ( hence the Saturday before Christmas opening), but intersections that will result in safety issues as well.

Now, not only will trucks to the port have to stop and idle, they will be mingling with cars and minvans since the province is now pushing this route as  not only the only free alternative to the tolled Port Mann bridge, but a fast way to the ferries. Unfortunately a lack of clear signage has already resulted in lost motorists, prior to the opening.

– Nor will the Liberals tell you about the Railgate connection to all of it…which is huge. It is not something that has been talked about other than a side story, but is very significant of itself.

– And they certainly left out about how absolutely vital the SFPR is to the shadow plan to industrialize and build homes on the ALR land south of the Fraser…which might explain all the smiley faces in the photo above. This is a must read.

No… the BC Liberals won’t tell you any of that in their feel good, lets all hold hands and sing Kumbaya together press opp. They don’t want you to know they are going to have to rebuild all those intersection a few years from now, and that they could have saved taxpayers a ton of money by doing it now. They don’t want you to know that the safety of the road was questioned before it was completed, as linked to above.

They just want you to drive on the damn road so they have enough road count numbers to justify the construction of the items they chose not to do as costs escalated. They just want to share the momentary joy of having completed one portion of the plan to remove much of the ALR south of the Fraser, to share the momentary joy of getting truck to the port before the expanded Panama Canal takes a portion of our shipping container traffic away.

Fiscal responsibility went out the window long ago. Don’t be surprised when the traffic jams start being reported on the news every day… this new road/aka highway was destined to be a dud before it even opened.

Merry Christmas Todd. I know it’s not the mess you created, but you certainly stepped into it.


  1. “…never saying where those savings had come from…”
    BC Ferries, because there’s nothing like treating a big chunk of the population like they have no value when you can get elected in metro-Vancouver alone.

    These people are not British Columbians; they’re Vancouverites.

    Good job Lailaya.


    • Thanks Dave. It’s all a mystery with the libs. Takes a lot of hunting,pecking, knowledge and a lot of contacts in the communities these projects run through to find out the truth.


  2. I hate that road! I came back from Pt Roberts yesterday (I had no problem getting there), intending to turn off north to Ladner trunk rd, and found myself in isolated lanes and unable to turn anywhere. I have travelled that area many. many times. There was an exit to “17A”, which I did not recognize and did not take, so rather than getting the stuff I had for and to my retired and visually impaired friend living in Ladner, before I knew it I was heading back through the Dease tunnel and into Vancouver. The most wretchedly marked road I have seen in a long time! But should I expect less in Liberalville?


  3. Over budget Laila? Surely you jest! I can remember when Kevin Falcon (then Minister of Transportation) said of the Abbotsford Hospital PPP project that “it can’t go over budget – its a Lump Sum Contract.” So was the South Fraser Perimeter Road. (As was the Port Mann Project in its first iteration)


    • Yes, shortly, but while working on this story last night, some news came to me from the engineering/geotechnical community on the reality behind Clarks Massey That will come later tonight or tomorrow…


      • The Massey tunel needs to go to allow Panamax class tankers loaded with jet fuel for YVR to make their way up the Fraser River as currently the depth is not enough. Of course a Jet-A spill in this area would wipe out the estuary and its various wildlife preserves, wild salmon runs and migratory waterfowl. Also, instead of barging coal from the Fraser Surrey Docks (a project that PMV will soon rubberstamp regardless of public opposition) large Chinese freighters will then also invade the lower Fraser River to get the Powder River basin coal that will be shipped on the BNSF across White Rock beaches. The view from the new bridge will allow you to witness the industrialization of the Fraser estuary while ALR land is buried to satisfy corporate greed and the PMV’s expansion plans. Of course, it will be the cars and trucks on the bridge that pay the toll, not the multi-national off-shore registered shipping companies passing underneath for free. You can thank the Clark Liberal government for all of this.


  4. This is the party that claims to be ‘business oriented’, ‘free eneterprise’ and ‘good for the economy!’ And they have never even once come in on budget in anything. They are wallowing in debt and ‘bad’ projects and they can’t keep the ferries, buses and trains running. What kind of business school did they graduate from? Fact is most of them never had to run a real business in their lives. They haven’t a clue. Their idea of ‘making money’ is to virtually give away our resources and claim the token payment (which they mostly spend on themselves) is business. If it weren’t so tragic, it would be a good premise for a comedy – The Gang That Can’t.


  5. It was congested before it even opened officially. I totally agree with the comment about the poor,poor signage. Traffic lights on a major freeway? Only in BC do we see that!


    • Correction: It was supposed to be a major freeway – it was significantly downgraded, detailed at the links within the story. Nothing is going to flow quickly to the port once Port Mann diverters realize its fully open.


      • Actually, the SFPR was never designed as a “major freeway” from the get go in its initial planning stages dating back to the late 1990’s.

        The SFPR has always had a functional designation of a Rural Arterial Divided (RAD) highway with an 80 km/hr design speed. The same functional designation as the Sea-To-Sky Hwy 99. Also the reason why the SFPR has a narrower paved median with concrete divider, and numerous tight curves. The only interchange is at Tannery Road and that is actually classified as a “mini-change”. And that’s why you also see a 50 km/hr posted section of the SFPR both west and east of the Pattullo Bridge.

        A higher functional design is Rural Expressway Divided (RED) (intersections convertible to future interchanges) and the highest functional design would be Rural Freeway Divided (RFD), which are technical functional classifications. And these designations would also come with a much higher design speed of 100 km/hr plus akin to the new Hwy 1 improvements.

        For the SFPR to be designed as “freeway standard” would require an additional $300 million+ in highway construction costs – and that’s before any additional interchanges.

        Unfortunate actually. Would have preferred a much higher functional design as well as design speed myself.


        • But the government already spent far beyond $300 million than what was announced and budgeted for. If the entire purpose of the road is to create jobs by speeding up truck transportation what possible purpose would there be to not design it as a freeway and build accordingly?


  6. Thanks Laila, There may be other reasons for not putting in the interchanges–sinking bogland!

    I have heard rumours that parts of the SFPR are already sinking. One overpass at Hwy 99 & Hwy 17A had to have an extension of 18 inches because the infrastructure sank. Apparently you can see the addition because it is black. I haven’t seen it myself so I intend to check it out. If anyone else has time to check it out, I would appreciate it.

    I have heard other rumours about problems with getting cement to set as well. If they had listened to the community and engineers who know what they were talking about, the road would be in a different place.

    In the 90s when they were riling up the people along River Road about the truck traffic they didn’t tell the people that getting the truck traffic off River Road would cost them their homes and their businesses and possibly their ability to eat–due to loss of some of our best farmland..


  7. Laila, your criticisms of the SFPR are up to your usual standard for accuracy and comment. What I don’t understand is the cacophony of outrage from some of your readers.
    Vancouver is a seaport city locked in by its geography. It should go with saying that you can’t have it all…. and in Vancouver’s case we would never amount to much without a transportation network that supports commerce and international movement of goods.
    I would suggest that those most opposed take a walk about their lives and ask themselves just where and how all their “stuff” came from. It’s not magic and the garden fairy didn’t do it either.
    The problem for this city will always be transportation grid lock and as a result some priorities have to be set and achieved. SFPR is one of them.
    In the context of the lower mainland, things will get a lot worst before they ever get better and even then I doubt that many of your readers will be willing to give up their own vehicles unless they are taxed to death.
    What seems to be lost on many is the fact that the SFPR is the most “purpose built” road system B.C. has seen in some time.
    So before we all set our hair on fire again, do the walk about I suggest. Failing that, make some real suggestions as to the alternative. (doing nothing is not one of them) This project is a no brainer in my opinion.
    Please don’t confuse this with the fact our Liberal Government continues to be an embarrassment to all in this great province.


  8. People are incredibly naïve. Their beloved NDP took advantage via photo op and disinformation in exactly the same way – and will do so again. “Fast ferries”? “Balanced budget”?

    The problem is not this Party or that Party. It’s Leviathan. Too much too-big, too-well-funded, too-powerful government.

    Starve the beast of dollars.


  9. Best thing I ever seen since moving to vancouver,we needed this badly,I work all over the lowermanland as a contractor any improvment to roads is a great,Its a thriving city which will continues to grow,if we dont keep up now the problem will get worst …


  10. All comments are thoughtful. Yes, we have challenges with traffic. However, if you do the research roads have not solved the problem. What do you think would have happened if the current roads had been upgraded and Translink usage had been improved with the funding used on the SFPR. The challenge with the SFPR is the location. Most of it is built on peat. That will cause sinking and shifting forever!

    Then there are the other questions. Call them the unintended impacts/consequences–loss of farmland, loss of jobs in the farming industry and better still loss of food produced in the Lower Mainland. You won’t be whizzing down any road if you are starving. And neither will your family. Perhaps you will be jumping out of your car/truck to pick up one of the deer hit by a passing truck to feed your family from staraving.

    Am I exaggerating? Well, have you heard of the drought that’s happening in California lately? Do you think the Americans will do to their families what was done to the Irish in the potato famine? There was food in Ireland–it was sent to England and not given to the Irish to feed themselves. ((Check out the history books.) I think not.

    There is not enough thought given to “unintended consequences” of roads and other monstrous developments. Or if there is, the information is ignored.

    Another good example of this is the building on the Delta farmland by the Tsawwassen First Nations. The BC Government commissioned a report on Sea Level Rising and the recommendation was that low lying land like the Delta farmland should be kept that way to prevent putting people at risk. I bet the consultants for Tsawwassen First Nations business plans didn’t tell them that their whole community along with a whole bunch of other people just might get completely wiped out.

    Enough for one morning.


    • It comes down to making choices…. and with it the peril of unintended consequences. The SFPR is needed, regardless of whether its on a peat bog.
      Much of what you say Eliza is true in the broad context, but is it realistic?
      As I suggested above, where do think all our “stuff” comes from? Your home and mine is filled with “stuff”, the product of supply and demand, global trade and transportation.
      Do you really think that by doing nothing is the way forward? And if you did, what about the unintended consequences resulting from doing nothing.
      Not to hurt your feelings, but it does always come down to choices. I only hope we make the best ones from a number of choices.
      Governments everywhere seem to have abandoned sound “Public Policy” in favor of making the quick fix. Something that is sure to end poorly for all of us.


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