Nova Scotia

Road builders unimpressed with N.S. 1st season of paving

After a first season in operation, private road builders say the province's newly-created chip-sealing operation didn't meet the targets it promised in its business plan.

After its first season, the province's newly-created chip-sealing operation didn't meet the targets it promised, according to private road builders.

"Their production was extremely low compared to what their projections were. They came in at about ten per cent of what they said they were going to do," said Grant Feltmate, for the NS Road Builders Association.

Transportation Department officials said in March that the lack of competition had resulted in chip-sealing prices — a process that uses rock chips and liquid asphalt to repave roads — that were much higher in Nova Scotia compared with New Brunswick.

The Department of Transportation's chief engineer Bruce Fitzner admitted targets promised in its business plan were not reached but blamed a learning curve.

"We didn't do as many kilometres this year because we had a short season. We got going in August , we didn't work May, June, July because we were in the training ... mode," said Fitzner.

The road builders claim the government crew double chip-sealed only 36 kilometres of the 55 kilometres promised and none of the 311 kilometres of road to be single chip-sealed.

Those were in the business plan used to justify the government's decision to get back into road paving.

Watching closely

This summer, a group of retired road builders followed the government's chip-sealing crew to more than 20 job sites and took pictures.

They concluded the government crew averaged one kilometre a day, not the four kilometres a day promised.

"We believed that nobody else was going to hold them accountable, watch what they did," said Feltmate.

Fitzner said it didn't bother him.

"I think the crew was well aware that people were taking pictures all the time and were trying to be on their best behaviour," said Fitzner.

Fitzner said it's too early to say what government chip-sealing cost, or how many kilometres of chip-sealing were completed.

Fitzner said the department is still analyzing the road builders' claims — which CBC News gave to the department for comment.

He admitted there was no single-chip sealing done this year, but said it will be done next year.

He predicted that productivity will improve in a full season. He did say this year was a success because in the face of government competition, road builders lowered their prices for chip-sealing.

"We achieved savings just on the tendered portions of $1 million on the chip seal," Fitzner said.