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Ontario rolls out big plans for road building and maintenance

Ian Harvey
Ontario rolls out big plans for road building and maintenance

Ontario is digging deep to roll out billions in infrastructure while also launching $1.3 billion in road repairs and upgrades this season.

What’s more interesting, says Bryan Hocking, chief operating officer of the Ontario Road Builders’ Association (ORBA, is that the Ontario budget tabled in April shows there may be more money in the pipeline.

“The recent rehab tenders announcement covered Jan 1, 2019 to June 30, 2019,” he says. “There might well be more to come, which would be great news for our industry, particularly in the North. The 2019/20 budget projections are approximately $2.75 billion for ‘provincial highways.’ We are now waiting for some of the supporting details.”

Ontario will pay one third of $30 billion over 10 years with similar contributions from municipal and the federal government as part of the Canada Infrastructure Program but a very small proportion will go to roads.

The three-level infrastructure program is in four streams: Rural and Northern, Public Transit, Green Projects and Community, Culture and Recreation. The vast majority will just go to the $28 million GTA transit expansion however, since Ontario has already committed $11 billion towards that.

“The province and the federal government have agreed to terms regarding the use of Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program (ICIP) funds for these subway projects,” says Ontario Ministry of Infrastructure spokesperson Sofia Sousa-Dias.

“The federal government confirms ICIP monies can be used for subway projects, regardless of underlying ownership and has further confirmed that it will invest up to 40 per cent of the cost of eligible projects.”

It means the $4.2 billion in provincial funding already allocated under ICIP for transit infrastructure in Toronto could be used for eligible subway projects, in addition to the $660 million already allocated to the Scarborough subway extension by the federal government.

“The 2019 intake targets near-term transportation improvement projects with the objective of supporting improved and/or more reliable road, bridge, air and marine infrastructure assets,” says Sousa-Dias noting it targets 500 communities with less than 100,000 populations.

This first intake of the Public Transit stream is open to 85 eligible municipalities outside the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area, she adds.

“This initial intake (for transit) leverages $1.63 billion of a total of $15.6 billion in federal and provincial funds over 10 years,” she says. “Funding is allocated to every municipality that receives provincial Gas Tax funding (and Metrolinx) and has reported ridership data to the Canadian Urban Transit Association for 2015. Projects eligible for the public transit stream will be assessed by a multi-ministry panel.”

The criteria is that a project must be financially viable and aligned with one of three improvement outcomes: improved capacity of public transit infrastructure, improved quality and/or safety of existing or future transit systems or improved access to a public transit system. They’ll both require Ontario and federal approvals.

“We heard from municipalities that there are many road and bridge projects across Ontario that are in critical need of funding,” she says.

The first intake for the Rural and Northern stream will focus on road, bridge, air or marine infrastructure in rural and northern communities with populations of 100,000 or less. Projects will be assessed and prioritized based on critical health and safety aspects of the project, technical merit of the proposed project, and the funding need for the proposed project. In addition, the province will give consideration to joint projects.

The first intake for the Rural and Northern stream will be open for eight weeks, and will focus on road, bridge, air or marine infrastructure in rural and northern communities with populations under 100,000 people.

“The Public Transit stream launched on April 2,” says Sousa-Dias. “Further information on the launch timing and priorities for the other streams will be available later this year.”

The province has set up the Grants Ontario website to be a “one-window” application channel to process intake, review, nomination, reporting and transfer payment management processes.

Building and maintaining roads is critical to Ontario’s economy, says ORBA’s Hocking.

“We’re seeing more extreme weather events and more congestion coupled with a growing population,” he says. “It’s vital for Ontario’s success as a province to have robust and sustained transportation infrastructure investment, which will, of course, effectively maintain existing assets, plan and build for the future, while at the same time creating jobs and bolstering the economy.”

ORBA is please to see the new government “sending a pretty strong signals that this is definitely part of their long-term plan. This would not only be good news for the industry but for Ontarians generally.”

The $1.3 billion this year will go to 123 projects across the program with the lion’s share targeting $512 million to rebuild and restore 20 highway projects in central Ontario.

Projects range from the rehabilitation of North Shore Blvd, Phase 2 at the QEW in Burlington to similar rehabs on Highway 401 around Neilson Rd. to Whites Rd., Eastbound Express and Collector Lanes, Kingston Rd., HWY 2A, Rouge River, Morningside Ave., Meadowvale Rd., Port Union Rd., Rougemount Dr., Petticoat Creek. at the Toronto-Pickering borders.

The Northeastern region will also see some $291 million to rebuild and restore 32 highway projects many of them along Highway 11.

There’s also $195 million to rebuild and restore 30 highway projects in Eastern Ontario. The Thousand Island Parkway section of Gananoque gets some rehab while Highway 7 will see several rehab jobs though the biggest looks to be the

CNR overhead bridge replacement, Lily Lake Rd. to Parkhill Rd. near Peterborough. Highways 401, 416, 417 will see lots of work while there will be shoreline protection at the Howe Island ferry terminal and at the Glenora/Adolphustown ferry.

The Western Region is earmarked for $165 million to rebuild and restore 23 highway projects most involving Highways 3, 7, 401 and 402.

And there’s also $103 million for 18 projects in the Northwestern Region, mostly on Highway 17 and 527.

The Northeastern and Northwestern projects are part of the four-year Northern rehabilitation plan launched in 2016 which will see projects past 2010.

Ontario is investing $103 million to rebuild and restore 18 highway projects in Northwestern Ontario.

As part of this, the Namakan River Bailey Bridge on Flanders Road at Lady Rapids, some 50.9 km south of Hwy 11, and the Namakan River Acrow Bridge are to be replaced and structurally rehabilitated. Bids from four companies set the work at between $1.8 million to $4.8 million.

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