Highest bidder wins pothole repair contract

Pothole season is upon us and already Halifax crews are starting to repair the damage inflicted on roads this winter. This year, Haligonians will pay more for approximately the same amount of repairs as previous years.

By Emily MacKinnon

Henry Street is one of many crater-filled roads (Emily MacKinnon photo).

Pothole season is upon us and already Halifax crews are starting to repair the damage inflicted on roads this winter. This year, Haligonians will pay more for approximately the same amount of repairs as previous years.

The difference, the provincial government awarded the pothole repair contract to the highest bidder instead of the lowest.

The Halifax region pays around $250,000 annually for pothole repair, a sum that is largely paid for with citizens’ tax dollars. Each year, the Halifax region accepts bids from multiple construction companies who are all vying for the pothole maintenance contract.

This year, instead of awarding the contract to the lowest bidder, Darrell Dexter’s government gave the contract to the highest bidder. While no one at the Department of Transportation and Public Works was willing to comment on how much of a difference there was between the highest and lowest bids, secretary Lisa Richards says it was “slightly more” than 2010’s contract of $262,000.

“I think, when it comes down to it, it was a question of quality versus price,” says the Minister for Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal, Bill Estabrooks. “The decision that was made was not a light one, and all contributing factors had to be considered.”

As with snow removal, pothole repair starts on major arteries into the city and then expands outward to the more rural communities. Nell Davies, a resident of Upper Tantallon, says her neighbourhood is in dire need of “crater recovery” but she knows the downtown core takes priority.

“It’s really too bad, you know. I personally think our roads are in worse condition than, say, Barrington Street or Agricola, but I guess that’s because I live out here,” she says.

Bob Young, with Halifax’s Public Works Department, says he knows it can be frustrating, but the department is doing its best to fill all the craters. “People have to understand the magnitude of the work,” he says.

Last year, Young’s crews used 15 tonnes of asphalt to repair only six of the main roads around the Halifax region. “We’re getting there as fast as we can,” he says, “but it’s a lot of work.”

Crews are now working from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. and from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily, weather permitting.