While B.C. Transportation Minister Kevin Falcon is boasting that massive upgrades on the Sea-to-Sky Highway will be "on time and on budget," a new study says such projects cost more when done as a public-private partnership, or P-3.

Speaking at a press conference just north of Lions Bay, Falcon says the highway upgrade -- which employs about 500 people -- is now about 80 per cent complete and will be finished in the fall.

But a report done for the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) by forensic auditor Ron Parks claims P-3 projects like the Sea-to-Sky Highway and the new Canada Line cost taxpayers more than if they were done publicly.

The report also accuses the provincial government of denying access to critical information so the public doesn't know if their interests are being protected on P-3 projects.

A costly proposition for taxpayers

Yesterday, the B.C. government stepped in to provide one-third of the money needed to twin the Port Mann Bridge and widen the Trans-Canada Highway from Langley to the Vancouver area in a public-private partnership.

The government decided to provide part of the funding after reports that the Macquarie Group was having trouble raising the money in the face of the world financial meltdown. Originally, said Falcon, the government had not planned to participate financially.

The project could cost more than $2 billion, which Falcon says will be recovered by electronic tolls of about $3 a car.

With files from The Canadian Press