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$2M budget estimate out $5M grounds B.C. airport’s runway extension

‘Real issue was construction estimate did not include construction costs’
The Chilliwack Airport runway extension is on hold. (Jennifer Feinberg/ Chilliwack Progress file)

An airport runway extension at the Chilliwack Airport had to be put on hold after a badly bungled cost estimate was out by about $5 million.

At city hall this week, Chilliwack council was told by staff: “The real issue was that the construction estimate did not include construction costs.”

The City of Chilliwack staff report to council on Feb. 6 zeroes in on what was missed: “during the detailed design for the 2023 Chilliwack Airport Runway Extension Project, it was concluded the pre-design report and the engineer’s estimate (of almost $2 million) for the project grant application for the airport runway extension and lighting upgrade did not include all necessary scope and costs for the project.”

The design estimate in question came from consultant SNC Lavalin. It was the third report from the multinational SNC Lavalin commissioned by Chilliwack Airport management, and it was used for grant application budgeting, but it was missing the labour and installation costs which came to $5 million.

That came out in the subsequent update of the cost estimate for the runway extension by consultants Stantec in 2023, after the firm was awarded the engineering design contract by the city.

“After Stantec completed further geotechnical investigations, survey and detailed design, they provided the City with a Class ‘A’ Engineer’s cost estimate. This estimate came in at approximately $7 million which is $5 million over the project budget.”

City officials had to quickly reach out to grant funders, the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure, to see if the project could proceed with a “reduced” scope.

But it was no dice.

The grant was capped at $2 million so it will now go toward lighting upgrades only, and the expansion project will be “deferred and considered during future budget review and grant program,” according to staff.

Councillors expressed dismay at city hall, including Coun. Chris Kloot who called it “disappointing” and the mayor who said someone “should lose their job over this.”

Mayor Popove was incredulous to hear that the project estimate was out by a whopping $5 million, noting “the city is not in the business of building airport runways,” and rely on engineering consultants to provide an accurate cost estimate for this type of grant application.

The estimate was missing the cost of preloading for the east runway extension and drainage works.

”A revised scope for electrical and lighting upgrades for the runway was developed to fit within the grant amount and has been accepted by the Ministry of Transportation. The lighting upgrades are critical, as the existing system has reached the point where it is not possible to source replacement parts.”

Jennifer Feinberg

About the Author: Jennifer Feinberg

I have been a Chilliwack Progress reporter for 20+ years, covering the arts, city hall, as well as Indigenous, and climate change stories.
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