Tuesday, March 22, 2016

PAVING A NEW WAY FORWARD ON ROAD CONSTRUCTION

The new Liberal Government is changing the way public tenders are handled in this province. It long overdue and very welcome. It should lead to a more efficient, timely and less costly projects.

In a province with such a short construction season, particularly for roads and municipal infrastructure, issuing tenders in late May and June often meant projects never got completed before winter set in.

As well, while there were multi-year transportation infrastructure plans like the Outer Ring Road or projects on the Trans Canada highway, most were dependent on the budget in any given one year.  Transportation Minister Al Hawkins says that is all going to change. The result will be a a multi-year plan with tenders going out as early as January.

Paving - black top - has always been associated with partisan politics in this province - with perhaps the exception of the Well's years. Paving machines have had a place in politics that is only rivalled by election signs. 

Politicians have a reputation for using road work to pay off favours or to solicit votes. Members of the governing party always seemed to get more money for projects in there districts. While the department kept a list of priorities, the government MHAs would be told how much money was available for paving in their districts and they had the final sign-off on projects.

Evidence based decision making took a back seat to real politics. Delivering for the member at election time often equated to better roads.

I am looking forward to other much needed reforms of the public tendering process including bigger penalties for failing to deliver projects on time, adjustments to original tender costs and larger hold backs. The introduction of a single source geo-physical lab responsible for testing all pavement quality might increase the value tax payers receive as well. The paving companies would pay the cost.  It works well in Nova Scotia and it is time we replicated the idea here.

A tip of the hat to the minister and the premier for taking some of the vote buying out of our system of governance. 

Let's hope that the blurring of the lines between the interests of political parties and the public will become a thing of the past.


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