City of Ottawa ends asphalt contracts after failed tests

An audit last year found asphalt fell short of the standards required and the city has now cancelled contracts to suppliers used to fix roads and potholes.
City of Ottawa crews patch potholes in February 2018. A modified high-performance cold patch asphalt was used during the 2017/2018 winter season and met the city’s testing specifications. (Reno Patry/CBC)

The City of Ottawa has cancelled contracts to asphalt suppliers used to fix roads and potholes after an audit last year found the materials fell short of required standards.

While the city's road services branch spends more than $800,000 a year on asphalt for paving and patching jobs, an audit presented to council last November found the city wasn't testing it. When the auditor tested two samples, they both failed.

A road services test of asphalt used in its 2016-17 winter operations also failed to meet the contract specification, Auditor General Ken Hughes wrote in his report.

In a memo to the mayor and city councillors sent Friday, the city manager in charge of public works said the department ended the contract for the hot-mix asphalt in December.

"In response to the failed asphalt tests, and at management's request, supply services issued letters of non-compliance to the respective vendors," said Kevin Wylie, the city's general manager of public works and environmental services.

City staff are now coming up with new specifications for the asphalt and hope to award a new contract in May.

The city also ended its winter asphalt contact last year and has re-tendered for a new supplier. That modified cold patch asphalt was used this winter and did pass its tests, Wylie said.

The city has made other changes to how it manages potholes, including doing repair on days when there isn't much snow on the ground and testing a Python 5000 pothole-fixing machine to see how it performs in cold weather, Wylie said.