The local government has assured taxpayers its upcoming road projects are still within budget even after the price of one has blown out by three times the original estimate.
The ACT and Australian governments were originally set to equally shoulder the $53 million cost to duplicate 4.5 kilometres of William Hovell Drive, between Coppins Crossing and Drake-Brockman Drive in Canberra’s west.
But while the federal contribution remains unchanged, budget papers reveal the ACT will now pitch in $80.75 million, more than three times the original $26.5 million.
It pushes the total cost of the project to $107.25 million.
During a press conference earlier in the week, Minister for Transport and City Services Chris Steel acknowledged “cost escalation on infrastructure projects” and put it down to the economic effects from COVID-19 and the war in Ukraine.
“The impact on the cost of materials and a range of other effects have been flowing through to infrastructure projects around Australia, and the road projects we’ve got underway are no different,” he said.
“We had business cases prepared several years ago prior to those major market disruptions and there have been increases in costs.”
Regardless, Mr Steel said it was “really important” the works got underway to satisfy the expected increase in the ACT’s population.
“We are the fastest growing jurisdiction in the country, and we will need to continue to invest in infrastructure that supports our growing community,” he said. “But there will be cost escalations that have arisen that we will need to confront as we go about that infrastructure program.”
The William Hovel Drive duplication project is still on track to be completed by the end of 2026, but the exact timeline won’t be finalised until after the construction tender process later this year.
In a statement to Region, the ACT Government confirmed other major road projects remained within budget (for now).
The price for duplicating Gundaroo Drive, between Ginninderra Drive and the Barton Highway, was originally put at $50.173 million in 2019-20, but was increased by $10 million the following year to cover traffic lights near the future CSIRO site off Owen Dixon Drive.
The project now has a total budget of $60.173 million, including $35.173 million from the ACT Government and $25 million from the Federal Government.
Construction work began in January 2021 between the Barton Highway and Chuculba Crescent intersections, and is now moving towards Baldwin Drive.
“The next milestone for this project is expected in the coming weeks with traffic in both directions to be moved onto sections of the new future northbound lanes as construction activities begin to move towards the existing lanes,” an ACT Government spokesperson said.
“At this stage the project remains on track to open all lanes to traffic at the end of 2023 (weather permitting).”
Further south, the duplication of Athllon Drive between Sulwood Drive and Drakeford Drive in Tuggeranong is in the detailed design phase.
This project will cost up to $75 million, jointly funded by the Federal Government. So far, $5.2 million has been spent on the design phase, and $3 million is earmarked in the 2023-24 Budget for the start of construction on the Drakeford Drive end next year.
“The next step involves completion of a Preliminary Sketch Plan (PSP) for the project, which we expect to share with the community early next year,” the spokesperson said.
Design work on the new flyover at the Lanyon Drive interchange on the Monaro Highway is also “well underway”, now that many of the utilities have been moved out of the way.
“Many of these utility relocations have been completed with relocation of a major gas main to get underway in the third quarter of this year and continue for the remainder of the year,” the spokesperson said.
“We are currently working through the tender evaluation for the design and construct contract.”
The ACT and Australian governments are set to split the $230.5 million cost, and construction is expected to start in early 2024.