Nfld. & Labrador

$77.2M for roadwork in 2017-18, Dwight Ball tells construction industry

Early tendering is sure to keep prices down for roadwork in Newfoundland and Labrador this year, according to the head of the province's Heavy Civil Association.

Premier promises to keep politics out of paving

Jim Organ is the executive director of the Heavy Civil Association of Newfoundland and Labrador. (CBC)

Early tendering is sure to keep prices down for roadwork in Newfoundland and Labrador this year, according to the head of the province's Heavy Civil Association.

The province's contractors will have more time to plan and hire, according to Jim Organ. That means they'll be able to work more cost-effectively by the time roadwork gets underway.

Premier Dwight Ball announced that more than $77 million would be spent on roadwork and road repair this year, with some tenders for the projects going out before the end of January.

It's all in an effort to help contractors plan better, and bid lower.

"That's huge for our industry, it will definitely result in lower prices," said Organ. "Contractors are able to plan, they are able to prepare, they know what's coming at them. They know how many employees they need. They know what they can spend."

Ball announced the total on Thursday in a speech to the association.

As in 2016, tenders for roadwork projects will go out earlier than usual.

Transportation Minister Al Hawkins says last year's run of early tendering — where some were called in March — was a success and hopes that can be repeated.

"We were able to find areas where we did some block tendering," he said of 2016. "We were able to add more roads … because the costs came back at a lower rate and gave us that flexibility."

The $77 million does not include work on the Trans-Labrador Highway, but does include federal funding.

Five-year plan

Ball also told the association that he was aiming to unveil a five-year infrastructure plan this month, which would lay out which projects were on the government's priority list.

Ball promised that road projects will be chosen based on economic impact, safety and input from users, in a move to take the politics out of paving.

"It's important for the public to know how and where their money is being spent, so these projects will be based on need," Ball said.

Dwight Ball speaks to the 42nd annual meeting of the Newfoundland and Labrador Heavy Civil Association. (Peter Cowan/CBC)

"The five-year plan will let you know what work is scheduled for this year, what projects are planned for next year, and the projects identified for the three years following that."

Hawkins said he hoped the five-year plan would pay off just like early tendering did by allowing the province's construction companies to plan into the future.

"Hopefully, place us in a better competitive position again when it comes to costing and tendering," he said.

Federal help needed

Over the past year, the province has completed major infrastructure projects, Ball said, including the Placentia lift bridge and replacement of highway culverts.

He also told the association, which is holding its 42nd annual general meeting, that a major infusion of federal money will be needed from Ottawa to help communities meet wastewater regulations.

With files from Peter Cowan