Ontario Construction Report staff writer
The $1.4 billion Herb Gray Parkway in the Windsor area has experienced some recent controversies relating to local procurement practices and installation of more than 300 girders which Ontario’s Transportation Ministry says don’t meet code.
The 11 km. project, co-ordinated by the Windsor Essex Mobility Group (WEMG), is the first public-private highway infrastructure project in Ontario’s history.
However its scale and scope has raised concerns among local contractors and suppliers, as the Spanish-led consortium appears to be ruffling local feathers for its payment and materials practices.
The girder dispute is perhaps another sign of what can go wrong when government agrees to contracts on massive public-private partnership deals with international firms, Jim Lyons, president of the Windsor Construction Association, told the Windsor Star.
The outsiders may not fully be aware of building standards in this province or attempt to skirt them to cut costs, he said.
Lyons in the past has raised concerns about questionable tender and contract practices by the consortium that was hurting Windsor-area companies as they attempted to get involved on the project, the Star has reported.
“There are still hardships in Windsor from guys not getting their cheques in a timely fashion or cheques cut short,” he is quoted as saying. “For some (local companies) the money they put out-of-pocket is a concern.”
Transportation Minister Glen Murray halted further use of the girders manufactured by the Spanish company Tierra Armada S.A. and partner Freysinnet Group of France which has set up shop on Windsor’s west end, the newspaper said.
The consortium’s representatives say the girders are safe – and that since they have responsibility to maintain the highway for 30 years, they aren’t about to install anything that doesn’t meet standards for durability and quality.
“Our engineers have looked at it,” said Michael Hatchell, a project director for Parkway Infrastructure Constructors said in a Star article. “We are confident the girders are safe and not an issue.
“We have an agreement to own and maintain these girders for the next 30 years,: he told the newspaper. “We have to be living with this — so it’s almost a 30-year warranty. We are standing behind our girders and the structure we are building.”
WEMG says in a news release “it has been working collaboratively with our partners in the provincial government” to help improve the contract administration procedures.
“The new Rt. Hon. Herb Gray Parkway, connecting a vital trade corridor and revitalizing the communities that surround Windsor, is being built to the highest standards,” the consortium said in its announcement.
“The manufacturing process of the girders used on the parkway has been certified by the Canadian Standards Association (CSA), the standard in compliance, safety and durability. Every girder installed in the parkway bears the CSA mark.
“Moreover, we have been working collaboratively with our partners in the provincial government to help improve the contract administration procedures on this project, which is the first transportation public-private partnership in Ontario,” the WEMG announcement said. “We are committed, as is the Minister, to ensuring improvements in the contract administration as this important project continues.
“We are proud of the efforts made by our local partners, 90 per cent of whom are employed from trades in the Windsor area. And we are committed to completing the parkway on schedule.”
WEMG is a consortium of ACS Infrastructure Canada Inc., Acciona Concessions Canada, and Fluor Canada Ltd. Parkway Infrastructure Constructors (PIC) is under contract to WEMG to design and construct the Parkway. PIC is a joint venture of Fluor Canada Ltd., Dragados Canada Inc. and Acciona Infrastructures Canada Inc.