NewsNorth article

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Galit Rodan from NewsNorth came across this site while writing an article on the Bridge[1], and I spent a little time answering some questions. I hadn't realized I would be quite so prominent in the story (and subsequent editorial[2]), so here's a couple of things I should probably mention:

  • I don't necessarily have a strong opinion as to whether a bridge should have been built or not. I just happened to get curious about the rather opaque DCBC mechanism, and couldn't find anything out there that explained it well. Since then, I waste a little spare time every now and then puttering around when something new comes up.
  • Nothing's suddenly changed the cost of the bridge - the $192 million construction budget is a perfectly legitimate way of looking at things in many cases. But there are also times when it is important to know what is being paid, when, and by who. So far as I know, there's never been a summary or factsheet which provided this sort of information, and it has been surprisingly lacking in stories about the bridge, given all the coverage over the years.
  • The Department of Transportation has been quite helpful in most areas and deserves kudos for providing most of the basic sources I've put together here.

If I had know Galit was going to take such detailed numbers off the calculator, I'd have thought up some sort of rounding feature to avoid the impression of spurious accuracy on some of those nine digit figures... :)

For those not yet sick of the Bridge, a couple random observations after reading the article:

  • Earl's suggestion of $3.2 million as a simplified annual toll amount seems surprisingly low. Based on the data the last couple of years' from the highway scales, something much closer to $4 million would seem likely for the next few years. My guess is that the lower number is floating around based on 2009/10, which was an exceptionally terrible year for mine traffic. Also, the $3.2 million doesn't allow for any community growth (the calculator uses 1% annual growth from the GNWT's traffic forecasts). So the toll revenue and 35 year net cost probably aren't as gloomy as the numbers in the story. The calculator tends to come out in the $75-100 million net cost range, depending on what toll assumptions you choose.
  • 35 years is the bond repayment period, and tied in to a lot of things in the old DCBC era, which is why the calculator was designed to produce 35 year results. The grandkids can certainly continue to use the bridge as a revenue generation tool after the bonds are repaid, but the concept of when the bridge is considered "paid off" is a little fuzzy, unless the government is running some sort of internal balance sheet for the bridge.
  • It would be interesting if the government updated the 2007 cost-benefit analysis. I wouldn't think it would be too hard to plug updated numbers into the existing methodology, and it would be interesting to see what the results would be.

References

  1. $357 million bridge possible - Galit Rodan, NewsNorth, Monday, March 5, 2012
  2. Bridge researcher finds hidden costs - Yellowknifer - Wednesday, March 7, 2012