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Province cancels Deerfoot Trail P3 upgrade project

The province has cancelled a public, private partnership for improvements to the Deerfoot Trail corridor in Calgary, citing cost uncertainty.

Alberta made the announcement Tuesday afternoon, adding that they will instead upgrade parts of the 40-kilometre freeway in smaller parts.

“We committed that we would only pursue P3s when we found value for taxpayer money,” said Alberta Minister of Transportation, Prasad Panda, in a prepared release.

“While the government is not going ahead with a P3 approach, we remain committed to making improvements to Alberta’s busiest highway and will move ahead with the necessary upgrades to help people get to their destinations safely and more efficiently.”

In the last budget, the province had committed $210 million over the next few years for Deerfoot Trail corridor improvements. It was in response to the December 2020 Deerfoot Trail corridor study.

The corridor study identified needs at Glenmore and the Anderson, Southland, Bow Bottom areas. It also looked at Peigan Trail, Memorial, and the 17 Avenue / Blackfoot interchange.

The province said it would look at areas of congestion for a targeted approach. When asked, they said they’ll be doing more work to determine the priority areas where work could be done the quickest and have the most impact.

The province confirmed that the money set aside for the Deerfoot Trail project remains intact.

They also said the individual projects would have to be re-tendered meaning Calgarians will wait a little longer for improvements.

“Current economic conditions have resulted in pricing volatility and historically high inflation in the construction industry, which means a P3 approach to Deerfoot Trail improvements is not economically viable,” Panda said.

The province confirmed that private contracts came in too high, likely the result of bidders insulating for their own cost uncertainty.

Disappointment, said Coun. Andre Chabot

Ward 10 Coun. Andre Chabot, whose ward butts up against Deerfoot Trail on the west side, from Memorial Drive to McKnight Blvd, said he and then-Coun. Diane Colley-Urquhart had tried to get a safety audit done on Deerfoot years ago.

They had no luck. It wasn’t the City of Calgary’s authority to ask for one.

Chabot said then the province initiated its own safety audit.

“The main issue here is there’s too many intersections along Deerfoot that not only create a ton of issues during peak hours but have been proven to be very problematic from a safety perspective,” he said.

He said it’s disappointing because any improvements would have benefitted Calgary commuters.

“A delay in a project obviously it’s going to have significant cost implications for it,” Chabot said.

“It would have been nice if they could have moved forward more quickly, because this is something we’ve been waiting for, for, I would say, in excess of 10 years.”

Chabot hopes they can move forward quickly and get some of these projects in the queue. He understands the cost landscape, too. Still, with inflation where it’s at today, he said the cost is just going to go upward.

“How often do you see inflation going backwards. Very rarely,” he said.

“I can’t see how a delay would be anything but more costly.”

The province didn’t have a timeline for a priority list. They also didn’t know when those projects would go out for requests for proposal.

They said they would communicate future developments to the public in the near future.