Ont. Liberals blasted for mismanaging road infrastructure
Ontario’s government watchdog says taxpayers spend millions of dollars paying repair bills for shoddy work by contractors hired for road maintenance and public transit projects, including part of one bridge that was installed upside down.
Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk also warns of serious shortcomings in the health-care system, and predicts cap-and-trade will cost businesses and individuals $8 billion between 2017 and 2020 but won’t meet the emissions reduction target.
In her annual report, Lysyk said pavement on some Ontario roads and highways that is supposed to last 10 to 15 years starts to crack after just two or three.
“For a sample of five highway jobs…we calculated that the ministry paid $23 million for repairs after one-to-three years, on top of the $143 million to initially pave these highways that should have lasted 15 years,” reported Lysyk.
Contractors were “tampering with asphalt samples” so they could obtain part of the $8.8 million the ministry paid in bonuses to include the quality of asphalt they “are always expected to do anyway,” added Lysyk.
The ministry agreed to a request from asphalt producers and cement suppliers to delay plans to implement a second aging test to identify asphalt that is likely to start breaking up before it should.
Transportation Minister Steven Del Duca said he was “not happy” to see the report, and promised an “extended aging” test for asphalt would be included in all road maintenance contracts by next year. But Del Duca wasn’t pinning as much of the blame on shoddy work as the auditor general did.
“There was an understanding that asphalt in some cases wasn’t performing as it should,” he said. “We have a unique climate in Ontario, and that factored into the discussions, some of the research and analysis.”
The province spent about $6.1 billion on 2,100 highway projects over five years, with $1.4 billion of that going to road paving. The auditor found the Ministry of Transportation allowed the Ontario Road Builders’ Association “to influence its internal operational policies to benefit contractors rather than the ministry.”
Lysyk said Metrolinx doesn’t hold contractors and design consultants accountable for projects that are late or inadequate, and like the ministry of transportation, still awards new work to contractors that performed poorly in the past.
“The lack of a process to hold construction contractors accountable contributes to projects being completed late, inconveniences commuters and adds extra costs for Metrolinx and taxpayers,” said Lysyk.
Metrolinx is now responsible for $1 in every $7 dollars of government capital spending, but the auditor found the agency often doesn’t know if it’s getting what it pays for. CN admitted it charged Metrolinx for new rail when it actually provided recycled rail.
One contractor working on a pedestrian bridge over Highway 401 in Pickering was so bad Metrolinx had to take over its duties, but then hired the same contractor, who caused “significant damage” to the bridge in phase two. The contractor then installed one of the bridge trusses upside down, but was still paid $19 million.