City councillors received a report this week that includes a cost-benefit analysis for the now $81 million Maley Drive extension project.
The report tabled Thursday, prepared by consultants AECOM concluded Maley would save drivers 457,000 hours a year for car drivers and 50,800 for big trucks. In dollar terms, that represents $11.1 million a year.
Maley would save car drivers $1.15 million in operating costs a year, as well as $360,000 for truck drivers. It would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2,459 metric tonnes a year.
Maintenance costs would total $170,00 a year for winter maintenance, while maintenance costs for cracks and other issues would kick in after seven years, and are estimated at $75,000, the report said.
Stretched over the 30-year lifespan of the roadway, the report concludes the net benefit to the city would be $135.6 million, or a return of $2.75 for every dollar spent.
“This represents the net economic value created by the Maley Drive Extension investment,” the report said. “It is important to keep in mind that these positive results represent only the strict economic test of whether the project is feasible. Further benefits have been identified which have not been quantified.”
They include job creation during the construction period and the value of diverting truck traffic from the city core, improving quality of life.
The project, which has been on the books for decades, would complete a road ring around the city, allowing heavy truck traffic to bypass downtown as they travel east or west. It would also make give drivers in the Valley, New Sudbury and the Garson area more options to get across town.
However, some people in the community – and on city council – have expressed reservations about spending so much money on a new road. While costs are being shared equally between the city and the federal and provincial government, critics have said it will need to be maintained once it's finished, and resources would be better spent maintaining and improving the existing transportation network.
In July, Ward 2 Coun. Michael Vagnini said Maley would primarily benefit mining companies, not residents.
Maley would mainly allow “foreign-owned, multi-national corporations to improve their profits,” Vagnini said at the time.
“Fixing the infrastructure is of equal value to the mining industry and the taxpayers of Sudbury, whereas committing the lion’s share of our financial resources to Maley Drive would be of minimal value to the taxpayers.
“As a representative of the constituents of Ward 2, I take direction from them and their directions are clearly in favour of the balanced benefits that improved infrastructure could provide to both sides of the issue.”
While not taking a definite position, Ward 9 Coun. Deb McIntosh said she wanted to see a cost-benefit analysis before making a decision.
“As with any project garnering significant amounts of community dollars, I will develop my opinions and decisions regarding Maley Drive on a well-developed business case,” McIntosh said in July. “Before building any new roads, there needs to be a compelling economic case to justify expanding our road system,” she said.
“I look forward to seeing a full report on the proposed Maley project and having a fulsome discussion with council at a future date; until then I will not be weighing in on either side.”
The provincial Liberals have included their one-third share of the project in their budget. The outgoing federal Tory government had committed their share before the Oct. 19 election, although it was not formally announced.
The newly sworn-in federal Liberal government has committed to a major infrastructure program, and are also expected to approve funding for Maley. But that assumes the project still has support on city council.
Bigger, who supports Maley, said Tuesday the AECOM report was the first step in council making that decision.
"This is our first opportunity to look at all the details that have been brought forward on Maley Drive,” he said, when asked whether he thought there was enough support among councillors to proceed with the project.
“We all have the same information at the same time here. All of the council have said that they're interested in looking at the information, the business case behind it.
"What I can say is that citizens can be assured that we'll take a very serious look at all the information that we have.”
More reports are coming on progress on the Downtown Master Plan, he said, and they have an all-day session planned to review proposals for some big projects community groups are working on.
“And so these are all things that I'm trying to bring out into the open, into an open discussion prior to us beginning our budget deliberations," Bigger said.