Fredericton City Council has decided to postpone two major infrastructure renewal projects scheduled for this spring and summer due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Planned projects on Regent Street (between Queen Street and King Street) and Union Street have been deferred and will be replaced by two other reconstruction projects that will have less impact on businesses and residents.
“The Coronavirus pandemic has hit Fredericton businesses hard, and while infrastructure renewal is vital to the long-term when it comes to safe drinking water and a secure sewer system, these projects would have dealt a huge blow to businesses that are already suffering,” said Mayor Mike O’Brien after the April 14 Council meeting during which the decision was made.
In addition to alleviating pressure on the business community, the deferral is based on a series of other considerations including the possibility of contractors being able to complete the work while still maintaining physical distancing, the probability of the project taking longer than scheduled due to COVID-19 impacts to the supply chain, and workforce availability.
Council accepted staff advice to replace the Regent St. and Union St. projects with two other significant infrastructure renewal projects: One on the St. Mary’s Street from the Northside City Works Depot to Two Nations Crossing and another on the Terrance Street from Brookside Drive to Harley Ave. The St Marys Street Project will be structured to maintain access to adjacent businesses while the work is happening, and detours will be put in place for the Terrance Street Renewal Project. The combined cost of the St. Mary’s and Terrance Street renewal projects is $1 million, the same amount budgeted for the Regent St. and Union St. jobs.
“These large infrastructure projects are vital to our quality of life in the City, but they also provide a boost to the local economy by employing local contractors who, in turn, provide spin-off revenue for other Fredericton businesses,” said Councillor Greg Ericson, chair of the City’s Finance Committee. “So, we’re pleased to be replacing these more invasive jobs with equally-important but less-intrusive projects.”
Capital plan under the microscope
City staff has conducted a robust analysis of its 2020 capital construction plan and identified $4 million in additional projects that could be deferred if council feels it’s necessary in order to bridge revenue shortfalls and additional costs caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The analysis further identified $10 million in infrastructure projects, however, that should go ahead this year because they will address significant safety concerns or urgent infrastructure issues. “This is good news, because these infrastructure projects are essential not only to the quality of life and security in our City, but they’re so important to the local economy. And this year, especially, we want to do everything we can to support our local businesses,” said Mayor O’Brien.