Red Deer County must dip into its provincial grants after new transit bus stops cost twice as much as projected.
Council unanimously agreed on Tuesday to tap up to $230,000 in Municipal Sustainability Initiative funds to cover the estimated $460,000 cost of building 22 bus stops in Gasoline Alley and Springbrook.
Jo-Ann Symington, the county’s community services manager, said the budget increased sharply because surveying, asphalt and concrete costs came in higher than anticipated. Costs were also driven up because there were issues that had to be addressed with the terrain on the bus stop sites.
The bus stop budget was based on the cost of previous similar work. However, when the project was tendered earlier this year, construction and engineering costs came in at $258, 687 for the 13 stops built in Gasoline Alley.
That was nearly $30,000 more than the projected cost for the entire route, including nine additional bus stops in Springbrook.
Councillor Jim Wood questioned whether staff could take another look at the project to find ways to cut costs.
Symington said the project had already been reviewed to find savings.
Councillor Penny Archibald said the county needs to find the money to finish the job.
“I know it’s a lot of money but they’re needed and should be done properly,” she said.
County Mayor Earl Kinsella was not overly concerned with the budget juggling.
“I’m used to these sorts of things happening at times,” he said following the council meeting. When starting something new, “it’s quite easy to underestimate what the cost might be,” he said.
Kinsella said some costs were added because Alberta Transportation wanted some of the bus stop sites moved.
The county launched the bus service on Monday.
The daily service will connect to the city’s transit routes at the Bower Place Shopping Centre.
The loop runs through Gasoline Alley and six times a day buses run to Springbrook.
The county spent $425,000 on a transit bus and $78,000 on an Action Bus for the new route. Operating the service is expected to cost the county about $600,000 annually, but some of that will be offset by fares. Also, $444,000 in provincial funding has been tapped to pay for running the buses for the first year.
The county has been looking at a transit connection since a 2007 transportation study confirmed the value of providing a way for workers to reach Gasoline Alley businesses and for Springbrook residents to commute to the city.