Who is the genius responsible for the handling of road construction work in the Toronto area? In my opinion there is absolutely no reason the Gardiner Expressway reconstruction and rehabilitation work has to take two years. For that matter, why does any road construction take so long? Have you not been tempted to scream in frustration as you sit in a traffic jam on the 401 across Toronto observing several lanes of traffic being funneled down to two narrow lanes—and no one is working on the bloody construction?
My corporate life was spent in commercial construction so I know a fair bit about the business. The company I worked for built more than $2 billion in new office towers, hospitals, universities, subways and shopping centres every year. We could construct and turn over a 20-storey office building faster than the road builders could complete a half-mile of highway. The reason for this usually came down to budget issues. It seems that governments (at whatever level) are prepared to release only so much money each year for necessary improvements and repairs to roads and highways. Therefore, it takes forever and very few resources are corralled to get the job done.
The Gardiner Expressway work could be easily accomplished by employing the P3 approach to construction. Don’t believe the misleading negative ads currently running on television that deride this way of building infrastructure. P3 does not mean the private sector owns the project. Here’s how it works. P3 stands for Public/Private/Partnership. Basically, it allows governments (the public component) to engage a consortium of architects, engineers, builders, financiers and managers (the private component) in a 3-way partnership to build a project for which the government does not have the available money.
The private consortium contributes the necessary capital and amortizes the cost over a mutually-agreed-upon time frame, say ten years, so their costs are spread out over the agreed-to time frame and the government owns the project. Quite simply, the government has taken out a mortgage to get it built and operating as quickly as possible, while retaining ownership, with the help of the private sector’s money and resources. It’s a win/win scenario.
If I were running Toronto (and sometimes I think I should be, considering the mayor we have), I would put the Gardiner Expressway project out for a competitive, prequalified P3 bid to proven teams who would be tasked with getting the job done in six months at most – perhaps with a bonus for completing earlier. A private contractor could then employ three shifts working 24/7, staffing the job for maximum productivity and getting the job done. It’s not that complicated. Let’s put some real brains behind it.