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February 17, 2011

Ontario Ministry of Transportation outlines 2011 plans to Ontario Road Builders’ Association

Ontario’s transportation ministry says it will continue to explore innovations in contract delivery this year as it makes $2 billion of highway and road construction work a reality.

“Innovative contract delivery models are to supplement current approaches, not replace them,” said Brian Gaston, Ontario Ministry of Transportation (MTO) assistant deputy minister, provincial highway management.

The province has allocated $1.95 billion for highway construction: roughly $1 billion designated for southern Ontario and over $900 million for the north. How that work will roll out through MTO can range from traditional design-build, which now has minor and major categories, to alternative finance procurement (AFP). The ministry has been tasked to find efficiencies through innovation, whether it is through contracts or project specifications.

Following are some highlights from MTO’s activity update at the recent Ontario Road Builders’ Association (ORBA) convention in Toronto.

In 2010 MTO was able to tender nine projects under the design-build minor contract model. Projects under this category are “straightforward projects” such as culvert or expansion joint replacements, explained Shael Gwartz, manager, innovations office, MTO.

“The early results are generally positive,” he said. “The goal is to do to continue to deliver projects through that model between three to five projects per year, per region.”

MTO is currently finalizing its design-build major model for more complex projects, such as expansion, rehabilitation and construction, valued between $10 and $50 million. The projects may also be spread over multiple construction seasons and have very specific risk allocation. MTO’s goal is to use this model for one project, per region, per year.

Gwartz noted that work on the request for qualification documents under this model has been completed and MTO is now working on the request for proposal documents.

The MTO is also looking at performance specifications in its contracts.

Among the items in this area is describing an element’s performance specification, such as pavement, and establishing the performance parameters for it. Discussions between MTO and ORBA members will benefit this specification development, said Gerry Chaput, executive director, asset management, MTO.

“It is important to include the contracting industry to ensure we get it right, to ensure we do not make something too difficult and ensure we do not sacrifice something that they think they are able to do appropriately,” said Chaput.

MTO’s contracts and documents sub-committee will continue to look at issues such as liquidated damages, contract completion and unlimited liability for maintenance contracts.

The ministry reports that 25 per cent of its contracts in 2010 were completed late and it found this result was too high.

The MTO plans to put out 33 early tenders this year between now and March. It has $782 million earmarked for purchasing property along project corridors such Highway 407, for its anticipated expansion east, and the Windsor-Essex parkway, the province’s most expensive highway investment ever.

The ministry’s $1.9 billion budget will see 27 per cent of spending go to central Ontario, 26 per cent to the northwest, 18 per cent to the northeast, 15 per cent for the west and 14 per cent for the east.

In 2010, MTO set out to do 2,300 kilometres of paving and ended up doing 4,070 km instead. It opened 27 bridges and rehabilitated 93 others.

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