After more than three years of deliberation and construction, the Gateway Loop project is now complete, but the $6.7 million price tag remains a sticking point for many.
A cost breakdown of the spend provided by the Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW) shows:
- $682,900 for project administration
- $1.5 million for site prep, utilities and roads
- $1 million for landscaping
- $1.9 million for the roof structure
- $794,700 for electrical
- $76,000 for "extras" and
- $711,000 for design and construction supervision.
"There were some costs associated with the project (e.g. tent rental, washrooms, initial traffic control in Lot 3, signage, etc.) that did not fall within the construction contracts. This accounts for the difference between the 'current spend' and 'total project contract costs,'" an RMOW spokesperson said.
"Design and supervision costs are higher than anticipated due to late stage design changes and some anomalies found on site. The extended schedule for the project has had minimal impact on the budget. Other than the increase to supervision fees from our consultants and an interim working state over the winter, the effects of the schedule delay have been borne by the contractor."
Was the project worth the spend?
"Well it is our transportation hub, it is the entryway for many of our guests, so it has improved the connection and the integration of the area to the adjacent village," said Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden.
"People, before this work was done, would get off the bus and not know where the entrance to the village was, so there has been significant improvement to the sense of arrival, for people who are arriving and travelling along Village Gate Blvd, so I think it was a necessary project, and it's good that it's finally completed."
While Pique has heard from several readers upset with the project spend, Wilhelm-Morden said she's heard the exact opposite from those who actually use the Gateway Loop.
"One fellow who was opposed to this project has since told me that he thinks it's money well spent, that the improvements for circulation and traffic flow and the sense of arrival have all been worth it," she said.
Wilhelm-Morden was unable to provide any details about what the $1 million in landscaping was spent on or what design features accounted for the shelter structure reaching a total of $1.9 million in cost.
RMOW communications was also unable to provide any details on the roof or landscaping before Pique's deadline.*
While a story published in Pique in April 2015 put the project cost "in the range of $3.6 million," Wilhelm-Morden said she didn't think that was accurate.
"To my mind, this has always been a $6 million project," the mayor said.
Asked to provide clarifying documents on the original cost, an RMOW spokesperson said the $3.16 million estimate dated back to 2014, "during a different construction climate, before a detailed design and based on a more simple concept."
The costs changed following a tender process, and the $6.8-million figure didn't come before council until February 2017.
At that time, Councillors Jack Crompton and Jen Ford voted against awarding the contracts, citing the vast difference between the original and eventual budgets.
*RMOW communications shared this with Pique on July 12 after the paper had gone to print:
· The Gateway Loop budget for landscaping includes plants, trees, an irrigation system, as well as hard landscaping features like seating walls, stone work, basalt columns, structural soil for some trees and the extensive unit pavers (bricks) used on the site.
· The Gateway Loop roof design was developed to be aesthetically appropriate for a world-class destination resort, given that Gateway Loop is a very prominent location and will be the first experience for hundreds of thousands of visitors to Whistler. The design underwent a rigorous review by Council, staff and the Advisory Design Panel. In addition, the roof is a very large structure that has been designed to withstand both significant snow loads and seismic activity. The materials used in the structure were chosen to require minimal maintenance, with the expectation of reduced on-going costs.