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Improving Relations with ORBA

Roadbuilders work towards better partnerships with their stakeholders.

April 17, 2013  By  Andrew Macklin

At the 2012 Ontario Road Builders Association convention in Toronto, one
common theme dominated the discussions: how do we work together to
build better roads?

At the 2012 Ontario Road Builders Association convention in Toronto, one common theme dominated the discussions: how do we work together to build better roads?

Government officials, equipment dealers, association representatives and contractors all contributed to the discussions as close to 400 people from across Ontario’s roadbuilding industry filled the halls at the Fairmont Royal York hotel in downtown Toronto.

Senior members of the Ontario Ministry of Transportation talked about improvements made in each stage of the process of getting provincial roads built. MTO executive director and chief engineer of asset management Steve Cripps discussed how alternative contract delivery models are becoming success stories in Ontario, leading to better-quality road construction projects. Those models will be used in some of the $3.1 billion worth of road projects budgeted across Ontario in 2013.


Part of what has made the process better has been the introduction of alternative contract delivery models offered by MTO, such as the design build major and design build minor models. The motivation behind the alternative delivery models is to provide better options, allocate appropriate risk, and promote partnerships and collaboration between business, government and community stakeholders. Two design build major projects are currently in procurement: the Highway 404 ATMS, and the Highway 401/Wonderland Road interchange in London. Across the next five years, MTO expects to offer 50-60 design build minor and 25-30 design build major projects. There is also the Construction Manager General Contractor contract model being utilized, which the MTO believes is beneficial for specialized projects such as complex bridge replacements like the current project on Highway 3 near Cayuga, south of Hamilton. As a result of these new delivery models being offered, the ministry has set up a Contract Innovations Office that provides information on the benefits of each delivery model for roadbuilders.

One of the biggest improvements made in the relationship between ORBA and MTO has been an increase in the number of road tenders released in the first quarter of the year. In 2012, the Ministry of Transportation released 34 tenders for roadbuilding projects in Ontario. In 2013, that number has been increased to 47. Those 47 projects are worth an estimated $504 million. In order for the number of early tenders to continue to increase each year, the MTO has requested that ORBA provide them with updated, accurate and timely construction timelines, as well as invoices as soon as work is completed.

There are three significant roadbuilding projects being undertaken by MTO in 2013. Phase 1 of the expansion of Highway 407 will begin this spring. Phase 1 will expand the highway from Brock Road in Pickering to Harmony Road in Oshawa. The expected completion is 2015. Work will continue on the Windsor-Essex Parkway, also known as the Herb Gray Parkway, which will run through central Windsor in order to provide better traffic flow in and out of the Canada/U.S. border area. One of the most environmentally sensitive roadway expansions in Ontario’s recent history will also be in the construction phase in 2013: a 34-kilometre stretch of Highway 69 between Parry Sound and Sudbury will be twinned. These three projects involve significant investments from the ministry to provide better transportation systems in areas of identified need.

In addition to the roadwork being issued by MTO, Metrolinx is in the process of $18 billion worth of construction projects. In 2012, Metrolinx awarded 62 contracts worth $678,014,057 as part of its new construction program known as The Big Move. Metrolinx has projected that its next wave of transportation infrastructure projects will be worth $34 billion, creating 800,000-900,000 jobs and $110-$130 billion in economic benefit. These projects will involve the participation of ORBA’s membership through the ORBA/Metrolinx Joint Contractors Council.

The improvements being made to road tenders and delivery models weren’t the only improvements discussed at the forum. There were also discussions surrounding the improvement of the system for dispute resolution in Ontario. Based loosely on the model of dispute resolution currently used in British Columbia, contractors will now have the option of introducing a referee into the resolution process. A single referee will be available for disputes that are valued at less than $750,000, while disputes of a higher value will include a three-referee system. Unlike the B.C. model though, legal council will not be allowed to participate in the referee sessions.

The discussions held at the 86th annual ORBA Convention will continue to help growth relationships in the transportation industry with the expectation that these relationships will help to provide Ontario with stronger transportation infrastructure solutions moving forward.

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