NEWS

Ontario road projects lack oversight safety groups says

11/21/2013 12:40 EST | Updated 01/25/2014 04:01 EST
Ontario lacks significant oversight on its infrastructure projects warns a group that represents the independent testing industry in Canada.

The Canadian Council of Independent Laboratories claims there are now fewer checks against structural failures and unsafe construction and designs.

The council warns the safety of Ontario's residents may be endangered and that taxpayers may be faced with the costs of repairing or replacing infrastructure years earlier than expected.

The group raised the issue Thursday, months after it was learned hundreds of substandard girders were used in the $1.4-billion Herb Gray Parkway in southwestern Ontario.

The road will eventually link Highway 401 to a proposed international border crossing connecting Windsor and Detroit.

Hundreds of girders were used. Hundreds more were manufactured but scrapped. All the controversial girders installed in the project will be removed and replaced.

"While much public attention has been focused on the Herb Gray Parkway in recent weeks ... there are many other infrastructure projects across the province where lack of government oversight poses similar risk," the Canadian Council of Independent Laboratories claims in a media release.

The province knew in late 2012 the girders did not meet the the Canadian Highway Bridge Design Code standards but the girders were installed anyway. In June, Minister of Infrastructure Glen Murray ordered installation of the girders stopped.

The province originally approved a plan to reinforce the all the girders but last month dropped that plan.

A spokesperson for the the Herb Gray Parkway construction group referred all questions surrounding the council's claims to Transportation Minister Glen Murray. A spokesperson there promised CBC News a response by 3 p.m. Thursday.

The Canadian Council of Independent Laboratories claims "dozens of other road and bridge construction contracts entered into by the Ontario government over the last few years have not required any independent testing or inspection."

The council blames new types of procurement arrangements, such as design-build and performance-based contracts, used by the Ontario Ministry of Transportation.

“As we’ve seen in the case of the Herb Gray Parkway, the provincial government has no direct way of knowing whether the materials and construction methods used in these projects meet standards,” executive director of CCIL Derwyn Reuber said in a media release. “Without independent testing and inspection, there is huge potential for shortcuts to be taken in building Ontario’s critically important infrastructure.”

The council claims there are nearly 40 projects it's worried about.

The council is urging the Ontario government to require all public infrastructure projects to be subject to independent testing and inspection. To ensure independence and to protect the public interests, these services should be retained by, and the findings should be reported directly to, government.

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