Road builders ready as B.C. seeks bids to repair flooded highways

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With record-breaking flooding and destruction from a series of atmospheric rivers, the B.C. government is seeking bids for one of the largest reconstruction programs the province has ever seen.

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Construction companies and engineering and design firms are being asked to respond to two requests for qualifications to rebuild highways damaged and broken during the storm from November 14.

The BC Highway Restoration Program will include work on Highway 1 between Highway 11 at Abbotsford and Spence Bridges, Highway 5 between Hope and Merritt, and Highway 8 between Spence Bridge and Merritt.

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The latter two corridors remain closed while Highway 1 is closed from Boston Bar to Spence Bridge. The three major roads suffered heavy damage during the heavy rains.

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“Personally, we’ve seen this devastation before,” said Kelly Scott, president of the BC Road Builders & Heavy Construction Association.

“(But) we have never seen so many magnitudes at one time.”

The 69-kilometre Highway 8 linking the Merritt and Spence Bridges was largely destroyed over the Nicola River.

A gaping hole in Jackass Mountain, south of Lytton, is part of the catastrophic damage on Highway 1 through Fraser Canyon.

About 130 km of corridor was damaged on the Coquihalla Highway, where the entire section has been uprooted. But Scott says the contractors are up to the important task of restoring those key transportation networks.

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“We have the capacity and capability to take it,” he said.

Bidders can apply to qualify for projects between $20 million and $50 million and for projects over $50 million.

The province is expected to handle less than $20 million worth of work through existing contracts.

BC’s transportation minister said engineering assessments were still being done to determine the full cost of recovery.

“It’s fair to say that it will be very expensive to rebuild our infrastructure,” Rob Fleming told Granthshala News Friday, “and to make it a more resilient standard.”

He said there are ongoing discussions with the federal government on providing resources for disaster financial assistance and to help with reconstruction.

“We are not sparing any resources on the effort needed to get highway infrastructure in every part of the province,” said Fleming, who has experienced and sustained damage work.

Repairs are underway on Highway 1 through Fraser Canyon, onto Highway 8 and onto Coquihalla, with crews to salvage any infrastructure still usable.

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Climate change-resilient design guidelines will apply to all new construction.

“It may be a 100-year flood, but we have to rebuild for a longer type of flood, a 1,000-year flood,” Scott said.

He said Highway 1 could reopen soon, but other roads like the Nikola Highway would take longer.

“It’s a terrible catastrophe,” Scott told Granthshala News. “You can’t see where the highway began nor where it ended.”

According to both requests for qualifications, financial incentives can be incorporated into the contract and linked to multiple projects to ensure the work is completed quickly.

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