Original Published on Sep 29, 2022 at 13:49

By Rachel Collier, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Aging infrastructure, environmental changes and increased material  costs have caused Island bridge maintenance costs to increase 70 per  cent from 2021 to 2022.

“We saw a 30 per cent increase and another  40 per cent increase,” said Darrell Evans, a provincial engineer with  the Department of Transportation which oversees bridge maintenance.

A major reason is aging infrastructure.

“The average age of our infrastructure is nearly 50-years old,” he said.

Bridges,  culverts, guardrails etc built before 2000 on the Island are designed  to last 50 years. In 2000, code was updated and infrastructure with a  75-year design life or more became standard on the Island.

Mr  Evans noted more extreme weather patterns have also taken a toll on  infrastructure over the years. He points to a major rain event in 2014  that caused a lot of wear as just one example. There were also increases  in material costs throughout the pandemic.

The province was on  track to spend $5,057,000 by the end of the third quarter of last fiscal  year compared to the estimated budget of $2,459,900 expected.

“The  initial estimate is really just a number,” Mr Evans said. “Contractors  will go in to complete something specific but once they get in and look  around, especially with older infrastructure, it often becomes apparent  more work needs to be done.”

The province conducts an overall  Tender for Standing Offer Contracts for Bridge Maintenance early in any  given year (with potential for one year extension).

Contractors  bid on tender items which include materials and equipment. Then the  department awards contracts based on an evaluation of the competitive  bids.

When a contractor completes a particular tender item they are paid according to their contract.

If  a contractor is required to complete work that wasn’t listed as a  tender item, a project manager will negotiate a deal on-site, it will be  done at cost plus, or the contractor will be paid by default according  to the negotiated rate tables provided by Highway Maintenance Division,  according to the department.

In the last fiscal year five standing  offer contractors were paid more than initially tendered: Gaudettes  Transit Mix Ltd (Tignish), Noye and Noye Ltd (Tyne Valley), Gillis’s  Heavy Equipment (Ellerslie), Maritime Dredging (Charlottetown), MacEwen  Construction Ltd (Morell) and Cardigan Excavators Ltd (Cardigan).

In  total these contractors bid on $924,328 worth of tendered work but were  paid for $2.4 million by the end of the fiscal year, according to  documents obtained by The Graphic through the Freedom of Information and  Protection of Privacy Act.

It is unclear what non-tendered work  was paid in accordance with highway maintenance division rate tables and  which were negotiated on-site at cost plus an undefined rate.

It is also unclear precisely what work was completed in relation to the additional non-tendered costs and payments.

The  department was on track to spend $26,000 more than estimated on bridge  maintenance division salaries and $18,000 more than estimated on travel  and training.

This item reprinted with permission from   The Eastern Graphic   Montague, Prince Edward Island

Comments are Welcome - Leave a reply below - Posts are moderated