COVID-19: Time is now to spend on big-ticket capital projects, say mayor, urban experts

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The city’s 2019-2022 capital budget includes some big-cost items in 2020: the Valley Line LRT at $581.1 million; ongoing neighbourhood renewal projects at $15.8 million; the Yellowhead Trail 127 Street Interchange at $50.1 million; and the old municipal airport land redevelopment, Blatchford, at $41.7 million.

In total, there are 280 projects on the go, with 94 per cent of them on budget and 84 per cent on schedule, says the city, including the $62.7-million Groat Road Bridge renewal.

Projects falling behind, meanwhile, include the estimated $158.1-million Coronation Community Recreation Centre, the $16.45-million groundwater diversion system replacement near 137 Avenue, and $2.4 million to replace the roof at city hall.

The city has a number of avenues to pay for the projects with roughly 60 per cent of this year’s funding coming from federal and provincial grants.

Mayor Don Iveson said the city has worked hard to get the funding formulas right.

“Twenty cents on every dollar we put into building new LRT we borrow for at the lowest rates that anyone has ever seen in their lifetimes and so it costs about a penny to get that dollar’s worth of economic activity. It costs about a penny on your property taxes,” he said. “For 20 or 25 years we will pay the mortgage on our 20 per cent but to cut the LRT would take a billion dollars out of our economic activity as a city. That’s one of the reasons why there hasn’t been a lot of serious discussion about pulling back on those projects, even though they’re the largest.”

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