Clear as mud.
That’s the murky picture created by a six-month delay in the opening of the city’s light rail transit system.
For a project of this size, it’s not surprising to many that the light rail system has been delayed.
One of the key reasons for the delay is said to be the Rideau Street sinkhole, something Mayor Jim Watson says no one could have predicted. For sure. However, no one ever thought this would be easy. For example, long before the first shovel went into the ground there was concern about some of the sandy earth that was going to have to dug for the tunnel. And of course, while hindsight is relatively perfect, there were reasons to believe the project was facing any number of potential obstacles.
Here’s a puzzle. It was widely believed the city could and would fine the Rideau Transit Group for $1 million if there was a delay.
And though the project has been delayed for six months, that’s not happening.
Watson is insistent the delay won’t cost the city anything because the contract allows them to bill back any extra incurred costs resulting from a delay.
“We have a fixed price contract, they carry the risk, we didn’t want the risk,” Watson told the media.
The contract does ensure taxpayers aren’t saddled with any unforeseen extras.
That is a good thing.
And while the situation is hazy, turns out there is a provision in the contract which allows the RTG to give the city a heads up if they can’t meet the deadline and if the heads up is done in a timely fashion, they wouldn’t have to pay the $1 million penalty.
Back in the days when the deadline was in May, Watson liked to boast about it being on time and on budget. But the mayor – who loves to reinvent history – now says he always made it perfectly clear he believed the train would run in 2018, so he’s still right.
Not so much.
Make no mistake. This is a huge project and a six month delay isn’t shocking.
What is shocking to reporters, the public and some councillors is the murky picture they’ve been given.
Remember, the mayor, some staff and politicians knew the project was going to be delayed when the budget was passed.
But seems the mayor didn’t feel it necessary to tell us, the people who’re paying for the project anything about the delay.
The news also took many councillors off guard, just as we were taken off guard to learn the $1 million penalty could be waived.
A little transparency would go a long way here.
But that doesn’t seem to be the track we’re on.