Highway maintenance in the Gulf Islands will no longer be conducted by Mainroad South Island Contracting after the contract between the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure and the company expires at the end of September.
Emcon Services Inc. will be the new highway maintenance company for the south island service area effective Sept. 30. The area includes the Gulf Islands, and extends from Victoria in the south to Crofton Road on Vancouver Island. The previous contract had been in place since 2004. Contracts are for a 10-year term, with the option for a five-year extension. Twenty-six road service areas in the province went to tender in 2018 and 2019. One service area was posted in 2015, and one will come to tender in 2021.
Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure chief engineer Ian Pilkington explained that by going out to tender periodically, the ministry can ensure it is getting good value for the taxpayers’ dollars.
“It is an open procurement process that is based 70 per cent on price, 30 per cent on the service proposal that the proponents must submit to demonstrate that they can do not only maintenance, but can do maintenance specific to the service area they’re looking at,” he said.
Increased maintenance standards are part of the new contracts, most notably with regards to winter maintenance. Contractors will be required to plow highways more quickly and be more proactive with their preventative maintenance and communications.
“These contracts were last tendered in 2003 or 2004, so in the last 15 years there have been changes in technology and also in what the travelling public want to see for maintenance.”
The value of the contract is yet to be announced due to the ongoing provincial procurement process. Pilkington explained that the ministry put an upper cap on the contract at approximately $14 million for the South Island region. The outgoing Mainroad contract was valued at $10,326,383 when it was awarded 15 years ago. Contractors are responsible for the maintenance and upkeep of roads, as well as bridges. They are also contracted to clear snow and ice from road surfaces. Other duties include pothole patching, crack sealing and drainage management.
When the change occurs, current Mainroad staff will be kept on under the successorship portion of the new contracts.
“There’s a requirement in the contract that any contractor taking over an area has to employ any unionized workforce and must honour their collective agreement,” Pilkington said. “All of the unionized workforce, so the workers who drive the vehicles and the plows, anyone who is on the island there . . . The worker staff will stay the same.”
Turnovers also often involve the new contractor purchasing the maintenance yard site, as well as some of the equipment. However, that is discussed between contractors and will be finalized as the turnover date approaches.
Though the new contract has updated standards, they will not be mandatory until that date.
For more on this story, see the June 26, 2019 issue of the Gulf Islands Driftwood newspaper, or subscribe online.