Maley ‘a road to nowhere’ — councillor
Michael Vagnini has penned a guest column for the Sudbury Star outlining his disillusionment with the Maley Drive extension project.
“The reason I’m bringing it forward is because they did an update last week and I feel compelled to be talking about how I perceive what has gone on with Maley Drive,” Vagnini told The Star on Tuesday. “I have always said the vote was 12-1; therefore, Maley Drive was a dead issue because the majority won, but I believe it’s going to be a project we will regret somewhere down the line.”
In the letter, Vagnini says he was the only councillor to vote against the project, despite the fact he was pressured to vote in favour of it.
“I felt a lot of pressure to change my vote prior to the project being voted on,” he said. “We have to fix what we have before we start building new things that we probably can’t maintain down the line. There was a lot of pressure for me to have a yes vote.”
Vagnini said he was told he would be held liable for things Tom Price, one of his advisors, was saying in public. Price was a vocal opponent of Maley Drive and organized a series of public information sessions during which he outlined perceived detriments of the project.
Vagnini said there was pressure to present a unified consensus when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau visited. Trudeau famously visited Sudbury in April 2016 to announce the federal government’s support for the project.
“I was not made aware of the prime minister coming to Sudbury until shortly before the visit. I was led to believe that the funding from the federal government could only be allocated to the Maley Drive extension,” Vagnini wrote. “When a reporter asked the prime minister, why he would approve money for a ‘contentious’ project, he indicated the federal government was only there to grant the funds and how those funds get used was up to council.”
Vagnini said he believes the project is a white elephant that will cost much more than projected.
“I’m of the belief that this road is, right now, a road to nowhere,” he said. “Until phase two and three are built — I don’t believe we’ll see that in our lifetime — it really doesn’t connect to anything.”
In fact, he said neither phase two nor phase three has been costed out yet. The project is a massive investment. It has a total cost of $80.1 million for phase one, which is split three ways. The municipal, provincial and federal governments each contributed $26.7 million for phase one; however, the city is responsible for topping up the rest. AECOM projected annual operating costs of $170,000 to cover winter maintenance.
“I am led to believe the estimated total cost with overruns will be between $120 million to $150 million, far in excess of the approved cost,” Vagnini wrote in his column. “The project was stated as being needed to show ‘good faith’ for big news that would be coming from the mining sector. The only big news from that sector so far has been shrinkage and nothing related to need for the project.”