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Green light for $260M interchange

<p>After a daylong debate, city council has given the green light to a controversial south-side roadway project — even though the city is currently short $130 million in funding.</p>

Mayor pushing province to help fund Gateway




“We just can’t reach the kind of goals that the province wants for us, or that we want and the citizens want, without working together.”






After a daylong debate, city council has given the green light to a controversial south-side roadway project — even though the city is currently short $130 million in funding.





A planned interchange at Gateway Boulevard and 23 Avenue, considered the city’s most dangerous intersection and top transportation priority, will therefore await a last-minute plea from the mayor to the premier to cover the remaining price tag.





“We just can’t reach the kind of goals that the province wants for us, or that we want and the citizens want, without working together,” Mayor Stephen Mandel told reporters yesterday. “Hopefully, this will be a catalyst and the premier will do the kind of leadership he needs to.”





If Mandel’s proposal fails, city council voted to transfer funding to the project designated for improvements to Whitemud Drive and Terwillegar Drive.





Premier Ed Stelmach said Edmonton’s transportation needs are serious and he’s open to hear Mandel’s proposal for more funding on the interchange.





“Depending on our revenue flows — if things go well and we see the same kind of pressures and there’s good revenue coming to the province — we’re going to try to further assist municipalities,” he said.





The cost of the interchange doubled from the city’s original estimate due to soaring construction costs from contractors.





All councillors voted in favour of the mammoth project, except Coun. Michael Phair, who failed in his motion to raise city taxes to cover the missing $130 million.





He told reporters afterwards that his motion demonstrated how expensive the project really is, estimating its overrun cost to be nearly 40 per cent of property tax revenue the city acquires in a single year.





Despite the overwhelming support, many councillors expressed frustration that the interchange had to approved in the first place.





“Bad planning got us into this jam,” said Coun. Terry Cavanagh, referring to the city’s past approval of the South Edmonton Common expansion.





“We don’t want to repeat the mistakes that happened in the past,” said Coun. Kim Krushell. “Yes, it’s a cost overrun, but what became very apparent to many of the councillors is everything is coming in as a cost overrun.”





Mandel will report back to council on Sept. 11 with the premier’s response to funding the project. The current tender on the interchange expires on Sept. 18.




steve.lillebuen@metronews.ca