More than $77 million will go into roadwork for the second consecutive year for the province of Newfoundland and Labrador.
Minister of Transportation and Works Steve Crocker and Jim Organ, executive director of the Heavy Civil Association of Newfoundland and Labrador, made the announcement at a news conference at the Holiday Inn on Portugal Cove Road in St. John’s Wednesday morning.
Building off a successful road construction season in which more than 508 lane kilometres of highway were paved, more than 365 culverts replaced and 18 bridges repaired, the Department of Transportation and Works announced the 2018-19 edition of the Five-Year Provincial Roads plan.
Last year, the province announced 75 per cent of the projects planned for 2018-19. This year, it added the remaining 25 per cent based on emerging issues, input from engineers, and input from residents.
The funds allocated for these projects don’t include the Trans Labrador Highway, Team Gushue Highway or the Sir Robert Bond Bridge.
“There is a tremendous amount of roadwork needed in this province,’’ Crocker said.
“By tendering earlier, this helps to bring our costs down,’’ he said.
By planning these projects earlier, the province hopes to save significant money, which can be rolled back into other projects, and allows those who are contracted to do the work the chance to have the entire construction season to complete its work.
Like last year, all tenders for road construction projects will be issued well in advance of the road construction season and included the first tenders that went out in December and others will be issued later Wednesday with the hopes of having all the tenders finalized by March so work can commence as soon as the weather allows across the province.
“The work will commence in construction season which is always dependent of our weather,’’ Organ said.
“Asphalt plants tend to start operating late in May and that is also dependent on weather,’’ Crocker said.
Projects are ranked on factors such as safety, traffic volume, and input from the department’s engineers, and users of provincial roads and highways.
A public consultation held in November received 470 submissions.
Under the 2018-19 plan, 60 projects were outlined for completion.
All projects that were announced as part of the 2017-18 plan not completed — 17 in total — will also continue this construction season.
In addition, the document outlines projects planned for 2019-20, 2020-21, 2021-22 and 2022-23.
“The good thing with agreements like this is it takes the politics out of it because we can see what is going to happen from year-to-year,’’ Organ said.
“That way we can plan our capital expenditures from year to year,’’ he added.
Both Crocker and Organ agreed that safety for motorists in the province’s highways is the overall major factor in all of these projects and how they are carried out.
Incorporating any mechanism that enhances that will be used to ensure that safety.
Road projects scheduled for this year are the ones that rank the highest based on safety, traffic volumes, social and economic impacts, input from engineers and input from the public.
Those projects could be subject to the use of night-time construction practices similar to the ones introduced by government last year and could include detours to ensure the safety of the travelling public.
“Our highways are important to all of us. By developing and continuing our five-year plan, we address the most important issues first, let residents know when we plan to improve their roads, and let contractors know what projects are planned, which leads to more competitive bidding and better value for taxpayers’ money,” Crocker said.
In addition, asphalt testing that was started last year will continue and be applied to designated roads across the province. Sections of highway used in the program in 2017 will see its first results released this spring.
Crack sealing will also be carried out on a vast number of roads and highways damaged by the freeze and thaw effect of this provinces weather systems. Crack sealing helps to prevent water buildup in those areas and in turn slows the deterioration of the asphalt and extends its lifespan.
“We were glad to see the plan introduced last year and happy to see it continue again this year,” Organ said.
“Showing us what work is coming this year and in future years is good for our industry because it allows our contractors to be better prepared and keeps our labour pool working in this province,” he continued.