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Company taking over highway maintenance

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MTO jobs to be cut

Come this summer, international company Transfield Services will be responsible for provincial highway maintenance in the Rainy River and Kenora districts, which will result in job cuts to Ministry of Transportation staff but also possibly create opportunities for contractors, suppliers, and those seeking employment.

In an e-mail to the Times, MTO regional communications officer Annemarie Piscopo explained that highways in the Fort Frances, Kenora, Dryden, and Ear Falls areas currently are maintained through “managed outsourced contracts,” where work is divided into small contracts and the ministry directs maintenance activities.

But beginning June 1, maintenance of the highways within this area will be carried out under an area maintenance contract (AMC), whereby one contractor is responsible for scheduling and carrying out all maintenance work on the highway system within the designated area of the contract.

Included in this contract is summer and winter maintenance work, as well as a defined amount of capital work.

AMCs are in place across most of Ontario, in many other jurisdictions across Canada, and in many parts of the world, noted Nicole Foster, vice-president of Communication & Capability/Human Resources, for Transfield Services.

Last January, this particular AMC was publicly tendered by the MTO, she explained. Then in April, it was announced that Transfield Services was the successful bidder.

Beginning on June 1 and for a term of 12 years, Foster said Transfield Services will be responsible for scheduling and carrying out all maintenance work on the provincial highway system within the western part of Northern Ontario (i.e., west of Dinorwic on Highway 17 and west of the Seine River Bridge on Highway 11).

This is Transfield’s third such contract in Ontario. In April, 2010, they began a 12-year contract in the North Bay area.

Then this past June, they began a 12-year contract in the Sault Ste. Marie area.

The company has provided services to clients in the United States, Australia, and New Zealand for more than a decade.

MTO cuts

With provincial highway maintenance being handled by someone other than MTO, fewer ministry staff will be responsible for supervising activities in the Fort Frances, Kenora, Dryden, and Ear Falls areas.

The job cuts will be as follows:

•Emo—one full-time, three seasonal;

•Nestor Falls—one seasonal;

•Nickel Lake—one full-time, three seasonal;

•Dryden—one full time, three seasonal;

•Ear Falls—one full-time, two seasonal; and

•Kenora—three full-time, four seasonal.

“We expect that many of these workers will find opportunities with the new contractor,” noted Piscopo.

She added there are four MTO maintenance co-ordinators who currently are responsible for managing maintenance operations in these areas.

These maintenance co-ordinators oversee the four geographic areas within the AMC, generally centered around Emo, Kenora, Dryden, and Ear Falls.

These staff will continue to be employed by MTO after June 1 and will have no change to their current work location.

Piscopo also said the public can expect no reduction in the level of services once the changeover occurs.

“Keeping our roads safe is MTO’s top priority,” she stressed, adding road maintenance standards will remain unchanged under the new contract.

“Ontario’s standards are among the highest in North America, and the performance of our contractors in meeting those standards is closely monitored,” Piscopo remarked.

For example, the MTO uses the following criteria to review contractors and how they perform during specific storms:

•when the storm started;

•characteristics and duration of the storm, pavement conditions;

•the contractor’s initial deployment of winter equipment;

•frequency and continuity of equipment used;

•ability of equipment to meet required circuit times;

•sand and salt application rates; and

•the time taken to achieve appropriate pavement conditions.

The MTO uses GPS-equipped automated vehicle locators in maintenance equipment “to make sure operations are being carried out to our standards,” said Piscopo.

Transfield Services held a reception last Thursday at the Adventure Inn here, inviting employees, contractors, community partners, suppliers, and vendors to participate in their new contract providing asset maintenance services to MTO.

Foster said the purpose of the event was to introduce Transfield Services to the community, talk with the people, and gather information.

“Transfield Services is currently in the information-gathering phase,” said Foster.

“Once we finalize our plans, we’ll know more about our needs.”

She added it’s likely that Transfield Services will have an office in Kenora, and also will leverage existing MTO space for satellite offices.

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