Action is being taken on criticisms about premature cracking asphalt flagged in the auditor general’s 2016 report, says Ontario Road Builders’ Association (ORBA) president Geoffrey Stephens.
At the top of that action list is a three-stage Quality of Asphalt Review currently been conducted by KPMG for the association and the Ontario Asphalt Pavement Council (OAPC). It is scheduled for completion in time for ORBA’s convention in February in Toronto, he said.
A progress update of the review was a major highlight of the pavement council’s fall seminar in December.
In a hard-hitting speech at that meeting, Stephens was blunt in his assessment of the impact of the auditor general’s findings on the roadbuilding industry and the corrective work it has taken and has to take going forward.
“Let’s be honest about the report. It did not have a lot of great things to say about our industry. It didn’t speak well of our relationship with the MTO (Ministry of Transportation),” he said.
“It pointed to some specific roads as being fraught with many issues and, although we didn’t agree with everything identified in the report, we do agree that we want to raise the standards for our industry to provide the best quality asphalt roads in North America.”
Stephens also made it clear the issues spelled out in the report aren’t restricted to provincial highways.
“There have been other municipal reports identifying concerns. While there are certainly more good jobs than bad jobs, there is no question that there is a real problem plaguing our industry,” he stated.
ORBA and the asphalt council have implemented several measures including engaging the help of Texas A&M University and its Technical Institute, which Stephens described as one of North America’s expert asphalt resources. It also hired KPMG for the review.
A steering committee comprised of ORBA directors and asphalt council executives as well as members of Texas A&M and KPMG then established the framework for the Quality of Asphalt Review which commenced in July, said Stephens.
His comments were a lead-in to a brief overview of the review by Augusto Patmore, head of KPMG’s Project Advisory Group.
Its objective is to produce “an independent, fact-based report that assesses various quality, governance and commercial issues cited in interviews by a broad sample of owners, ORBA and OAPC members, and other industry experts,” said Patmore.
Included in the industry list were the MTO, the Highway 407 Electronic Toll Road operator, three regional governments (Peel, Durham and Waterloo) and 12 municipalities including London, Mississauga and Brampton. This sample represents approximately 92,000 kilometres of the road network in the province, he said.
One of the key points displayed in Patmore’s PowerPoint presentation was that there is “widespread dissatisfaction” by owners with the increase in premature cracking on roads that should last 15 to 20 years and that the ORBA-MTO relationship has deteriorated over the past few years.
Causes of that deterioration include “less than desirable consultation” between the MTO and the industry on changes in specifications and a “lack of effort” by ORBA and contractors to involve the MTO and municipalities in key initiatives or discussion groups on asphalt quality issues.