When only one bid for a Victoria-area dual lane project was submitted in May, at $200,000 more than budgeted, the City of Langford put the brakes on the roadwork.
After re-tendering in September, Nanaimo-based Windley Contracting won the bid for a $1.4-million Millstream interchange job. Work will begin in February 2018.
“We want it open before the May long weekend,” said Michelle Mahovlich, Langford’s director of engineering.
Sparker Construction, which made the single offer in the spring, as well as Scansa Construction, also bid on the job in September.
Mahovlich attributes the lack of bids in spring 2017 to the high level of construction activity in the Victoria area, with residential and condo construction at a frenetic pace.
“Generally, work on the Island is very busy,” she said.
In Langford alone, population about 36,000, and one of B.C.’s fastest growing municipalities, there were two other major road projects underway this year (West Shore Parkway and Bear Mountain Parkway extension). As well, work at the $85-million McKenzie Interchange project in Saanich will be ongoing until at least mid-2019.
Windley’s civil division manager said his company is very familiar with the Victoria area and the growing problem of traffic congestion. “We’ve done a lot of work with Langford,” said Kyle Webb.
When the Millstream interchange was built, it was anticipated another turn lane would be eventually needed. The needed second lane exists now, behind concrete barriers. Windley’s work will be to create the much-needed second, southbound left-turn lane onto the Trans Canada Highway into Victoria as well as the construction of two-metre wide bike lanes and adding missing sidewalks and signals for pedestrians.
The work is crucial because traffic can be backed up for close to an hour in the area on weekends, Webb said. South Vancouver Island residents travel on Millstream to reach the Costco store and other retailers, creating lengthy backups on the weekend.
Webb expects Windley will have about seven employees on site and once sub-trades and flaggers are working, it will be a 20-person crew. While it’s not a huge, long-term job, there are challenges.
The wet spring weather will affect paving and concrete work, and given the volume of traffic, Webb expects complaints from motorists. “We’ll be working in a high-visibility area,” he said. “But we’ll only be working certain hours to reduce the impact to drivers.”
In a nod to people driving out on holiday, project work won’t be permitted from noon on Fridays during long weekends and will resume on the Tuesday.
And to avoid infringing on traffic lanes, smaller equipment will be used and work will usually start at 3 or 4 a.m. and finish around noon, Webb said.
But night work will add a further hurdle. Asphalt paving can’t be done and concrete can’t be delivered. “The challenge is getting materials into the location at night,” Webb said.
The CEO of the Vancouver Island Construction Association is aware that Vancouver Island municipal projects, like the Millstream interchange, have faced delays or re-tendering due to lack of bids.
Developers can find and hire contractors faster than municipalities, because local governments often have more demanding projects that require more time, said Rory Kulmala. With a less-challenging condo project, for example, contractors can get in, get it done quickly and face fewer risks, he says.
Strategic planning, to align and schedule the jobs to existing workforces and time of year, are valuable. “And you need flexibility in tendering,” Kulmala said. Tender expectations also need to be clearly defined
He expects Vancouver Island’s bustling residential and commercial scene to slow in about one year to 18 months when a lot of private developer projects will finish, freeing up the workforce.
Mahovlich said Langford prides itself on giving as much lead time as possible so companies can organize their workloads. Langford also carries out road projects, like the West Shore Parkway, strategically, doing them in small segments, she added.
And as more houses, condos and rental units get built in Langford, and the rest of Greater Victoria, more residents and vehicles follow.
“It’s driving the need for road infrastructure,” Mahovlich said.