Ontario’s recently launched online tool to inform the public and construction industry about highway projects has those in the sector emphasizing that in order for the tool to be effective, more frequent updates are needed.
Launched July 16 by the Ministry of Transportation (MTO), Ontario’s Highway Programs map will allow people to view information on the status of major projects. Users will be able to search highway expansions and rehabilitation projects that are planned, underway or upcoming in northern and southern Ontario in an interactive map format.
“We are appreciative of the work MTO has done in developing the new online highway program management tool; the map shows a good overview of project locations,” said Ontario Road Builders’ Association (ORBA) CEO Bryan Hocking, in a statement. “However, we do have concerns regarding the infrequency of updates that will be provided, which renders the information within the tool to be a snapshot in time. For the tool to be useful for contractors, more granularity is needed as to the stage of a project beyond being listed in the ‘planned’ or ‘underway’ category.”
According to the ministry, the tool is intended to support the province’s construction industry by providing a multi-year outlook of planned projects to help them better prepare for the future. All expansion projects with construction funding are identified, while the rehabilitation program is focused on a three-year period (2020-2022).
“We did provide a demonstration to ORBA and CEO (Consulting Engineers of Ontario) a week prior to the launch to give an overview of the functionality and how it works to search within the map,” explained Michelle Pasqua, a director in the asset management branch of the MTO.
“The intent is we would update this annually, so this represents a multi-year program as of this year. We’re really hopeful that this will provide the province’s construction industry with the information they need to stay informed about infrastructure investments. We know this information is very valuable to help with their planning.
“Rehabilitation could include in addition to pavement repair, guardrail repair, signage, anything that is needed to keep the road safe and in good condition.”
Bruce Matthews, chief executive officer of CEO, said he hopes to see the tool evolve.
“It provides a good package of information about funded repair and expansion projects that will take place over the next few years,” said Matthews in an email to the Daily Commercial News. “CEO looks forward to the evolution of the tool to become a source of project pipeline information to allow those in the design and construction sector to better serve the needs of the MTO through informed resource planning. We value our ongoing engagement with the MTO Transportation Infrastructure Management Division and look forward to future dialogue about the features and capabilities of the highways program map.”
The program was developed in house and involved staff from the asset management branch, geomatics and IT. The intent was to modernize the previous program that only listed projects.
“We proactively developed it to give that visual representation,” said Pasqua. “In the past, we shared our program as a static list, so it was a little less user friendly and it wasn’t as searchable or interactive.”
The target users are the general public, the construction industry, engineers, designers, municipalities and anyone interested in road projects in the province, she added.
“It’s quite easy to narrow down and see exactly what you are interested in. The projects are displayed as dots or lines. A dot is a project that has one location and a line would be a continuous project, something along a corridor. If you click on a dot or a line a pop-up box opens up and provides you with additional information about that project.”
Follow the author on Twitter @DCN_Angela.