The new highway maintenance contractor for the Okanagan will need to improve its service.
The Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure said it issued a non-compliance report to Acciona Infrastructure Maintenance (AIM) Inc. on May 24.
AIM was awarded a 10-year contract to conduct highway maintenance for the Okanagan-Shuswap and South Okanagan starting on April 1. However, due to reasons including not having a full complement of equipment, AIM failed to sweep all required numbered highways by the May 15 target.
As a result, the ministry required AIM to complete the road sweeping by an updated target of June 15 and submit a corrective action plan by July 1.
AIM failed to meet the updated target as well. Despite putting “extensive effort into completing sweeping work as quickly as possible,” a ministry representative said, some of the work has been extended beyond the June 15 date.
AIM Roads operations director Greg Ehman said there are several reasons the company did not achieve its targets.
First, Ehman said there was significantly more winter sand left on the roads than anticipated.
“Due to the contract changeover, the previous contractor was not able to undertake as rigorous a sweeping program in March as they historically had performed,” Ehman said in an email. “This additional sweeping and quantity caused additional delays in our sweeping.”
He said the company also lost multiple days due to April storms and lost time after deciding to move machines from highways to rural subdivisions because they received “a high volume of stakeholder concerns” in those areas.
New machines AIM had ordered also failed to arrive by April 1, leaving the company without a full complement of equipment. Ehman attributed this to the fact that in 2018-2019, 26 of 28 highway maintenance contracts in B.C. were retendered, plus additional contracts in Alberta.
“This contract retendering process resulted in the majority of contractors renewing their fleet, causing in turn, a strain on equipment suppliers and resulting delays in equipment deliveries,” he said, adding that AIM tried to make up for the equipment delays by subcontracting local contractors that “have historically been sufficient to complete the sweeping program in the area.”
According to the ministry, the company recently submitted its corrective action plan.
“The ministry is satisfied [AIM] has taken appropriate action to make up for the delays experienced this spring and moving forward will meet our high standards for road maintenance,” a representative said.
The plan to improve sweeping next season includes increased use of approved supplies; being able to start sweeping earlier without the contract changeover; deploying all new equipment as originally planned, and; adjusting shifts to double-shift sweeping equipment.
Asked if the company will be ready for colder weather, Ehman said they expect all equipment will be in place in advance of the winter.
“A significant portion of the winter equipment is in place with nearly all the outstanding equipment expected to arrive over the summer months,” he said.
Ehman also said a dedicated communications centre for the area will be up and running by August.
“Overall, we look forward to a smooth winter,” he said.