Washmill underpass boondoggle swept under rug

Over budget project will make Bayers Lake traffic worse, not better.

Halifax council approved a $4.5 million expenditure for the Washmill underpass project, bringing total cost of the project so far to $15.5 million, $5.5 million over budget. The project is “the biggest boondoggle in HRM’s history,” said councillor Gloria McCluskey, an assessment no one disagreed with.

The underpass connects suburban Clayton Park to the big box land of Bayers Lake Industrial Park, via what’s now a cul-de-sac next to the Empire Imax theatre. But the $15.5 doesn’t cover needed intersection improvements at Washmill Court and Chain Lake Boulevard, which will likely cost millions more. Those costs are put off to some distant future date; in the meanwhile, the intersection will become its own sort of post-apocalyptic traffic hell until the money is found---that is, the underpass project, supposedly built to improve traffic flow in the BLIP, will actually make traffic worse.

The staff report recommending the new expenditure is a text-book example of dissembling bureaucracy run amok. Almost $6 million of the underpass costs are shuffled off into a magic “business park reserve fund,” which staff then implies is somehow not HRM money, but of course city money is city money, no matter how much cover-your-ass bureaucrats want to pretend otherwise.

In any event, council approved the new expenditure on a 18-3 vote, and the underpass will be completed this summer.

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