The new Metrobus depot is now slated to open later this summer. — Telegram file photo
The opening of the new Metrobus depot is behind schedule, but it isn’t over budget, says a St. John’s councillor.
“It’s a $34.2-million project and right now, as we speak, we have spent $28.03 million,” said Tom Hann, who represents council on the St. John’s Transportation Commission, which oversees Metrobus.
“So, we’ll come in under budget unless something happens,” he said.
The facility was first scheduled to open in spring 2012, then it was del-ayed until the spring of 2013, and it is now slated to open this summer.
Hann said the city won’t apologize for trying to get it right.
“Delays like these on many large projects are quite normal,” he said.
“There’s always minor odds and ends that have to be addressed and we’re working through them and doing it diligently to make sure it’s all done before it opens,” said Hann.
Give the facility is a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) building, which means it is a high-performance, environmentally innovative building, Hann said it could take even longer.
“Absolutely,” he said when it was suggested other LEED buildings in the province have started after the depot and are in operation before the depot is finished.
“But you can’t compare a LEEDs designated office building to a major operation like this. Metrobus is not like any other business from an operating point of view. When they move everything has to be done at the same time because you can’t operate from two buildings,” Hann said.
“You can’t have a communication system in one and have the buses in the other, or half the buses here and half over there, half the mechanical staff over there and the parts department not moved yet. So everything has to be done on a strategic plan that says we are going to start moving on this date and everything completed before the switch is made,” he said.
Hann said the facility on Messenger Drive also fell victim to a labour shortage last year when construction projects were having a hard time getting full crews to finish jobs.
He said there have been other issues plaguing progress at the new depot such as the antiquated radio system in the old depot on Freshwater Road.
“The radio system in the old building could not be moved because it is so old it would cause major communication problems so it did take a while to get the tender out and to make sure we found the right technology that’s going to last for the next 15-29 years,” he said.
The tender has been awarded and work is ongoing with the installation as is the radio system, Hann said.
As well, he said there were some questions being asked after the fuel tanks were installed, but that hasn’t had any role to play in delays.
“The fuel tank system was designed exactly as it was asked for. We have two tanks. If one has a problem the other takes over and it was thought there might need to be a pump from one tank to the other which is being looked at, but there is no problem with it. No floors have to be dug up for it or anything like that,” he said.
Hann said some of the Metrobus staff have already gone through orientation and last week members of the Canadian Urban Transit Association were in town for a conference and several of them — delegates from Vancouver to Halifax — went on technical tours of the building.
“They were quite amazed by the building and the operation that will be there. So yes we are behind, but staff are working out all the details and hopefully we’ll be in there this summer.”