Alberta overhauls tender process for highway maintenance work, but dismisses roadbuilder challenge
CALGARY—Alberta Transportation Minister Brian Mason said the province is committed to public tendering on highway maintenance contracts “despite what some companies might say.”
Mason announced a new evaluation model for bids on those contracts that will put more emphasis on performance over cost. The first tender under the updated criteria has been issued for Deerfoot Trail in Calgary. The existing contract for that work will expire July 31, 2019.
The province plans to issue tenders in September for 10 of 25 Contract Maintenance Areas (CMAs), accounting for 37 per cent of the province’s highways.
“We’ll be evaluating the capacity of the companies to deliver what they’re saying they’re going to deliver and there’s a number of factors that we take into account in order to do that,” Mason said. “We still want price to be a very, very important factor.”
The new model puts a 60 per cent emphasis on cost and 40 per cent emphasis on performance. Conversely, the previous model put a 95 per cent emphasis on cost and a five per cent emphasis on technical components.
Alberta-based contractors will not be given preference to the contracts, Mason said, despite escalating tensions between the province and its roadbuilders over the sale of a chunk of contracts formerly owned by Carillion Canada to a B.C. company.
“We have a specific set of problems we need to deal with with respect to the Carillion dealership but that does not mean we are wavering in our commitment to an open tendering process,” Mason said.
Mason said the updated bid criteria is not in response to Carillion’s collapse and subsequent inability to deliver on its contractual obligations, but that the province was aware of those “problems” before it went into receivership.
“They followed a strategy of, basically, low bid in order to get the work,” Mason said. “But they weren’t necessarily able to deliver because they weren’t making enough money. So, that is something that was apparent to us before the failure of Carillion.”
New highway maintenance contracts will also have a seven-year lifespan with a possible three-year extension if expectations for contractor performance have been met.
Alberta’s 25 CMAs cover 31,400 kilometres of provincial highways. The 25 CMAs are managed under eight highway maintenance contracts. The Deerfoot Trail is managed as a separate maintenance contract.
The highway maintenance network also includes 4,500 bridges and the ring roads around Calgary and Edmonton.