BY LINDSAY BRISCOE
The Ministry of Transportation (MTO) has announced that it will be looking for a new highway maintenance services provider for the Kenora area.
“Transfield Services and the Ministry of Transportation have mutually agreed to end the contract for the Kenora area. The decision is based on what is best for both the province and for Transfield. Retendering the contract for the Kenora area provides the opportunity for MTO to make some enhancements to the area maintenance contract. It also allows Transfield to focus their efforts on their other two contracts, North Bay and Sault Ste. Marie,” said MTO spokesperson Annemarie Piscopo, in an e-mail.
Starting in April, the Ministry will start the process of looking for a new service provider.
“This will ensure that service is not disrupted and will allow us the time to have winter maintenance services secured and ready for next winter. We are committed to ensuring continuity of winter maintenance services for residents and road users of the northwest region,” said Transportation Minister Stephen del Duca, in a statement.
Kenora-Rainy River MPP Sarah Campbell has expressed concern that the new contractor may not be familiar with the challenges of maintaining highways in northwestern Ontario.
“The Ministry of Transportation has not said whether serious concerns having to do with the deficiencies of the area maintenance contracts will be addressed or whether other reforms will be made,” Campbell said, in a statement.
In response, Piscopo said that, as the MTO negotiates new contracts, it always looks at ways to improve them and deliver better service.
”After every winter season we complete a detailed internal review of our winter maintenance program. Our review, public and stakeholder feedback have identified areas for improvement. As an example, MTO will clarify the contract’s performance requirements and will include some key prescriptive requirements such as winter equipment complement and winter road patrolling.”
“The request for proposal process requires the contractor to submit information explaining how the contractor will complete the maintenance services. The contractor’s submission will be evaluated to ensure that the challenges of highway maintenance are addressed,” she added.
Campbell is urging the government to form a select committee comprised of MPPs from all three parties that would examine any problems associated with winter highway maintenance.
“Without taking a step back and listening to the public, industry experts, the ministry and area contractors, we won’t fully know all of the reforms that will need to be made to ensure consistently high quality service each year. It is unfortunate that this private member’s motion I proposed last spring received all-party support but was not formed by the Liberals,” stated Campbell.