Road builders urge province to build toll roads for P3s

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VICTORIA, B.C. — The B.C. Road Builders Association (BCRBA) is urging the province to build toll highways, which could then be sold to private companies, using Ontario’s Hwy. 407 as a model.

The provincial Liberal’s have hinted that public-private partnerships (P3s) are going to become more common in B.C., but the BCRBA says it will only work if the province takes the initiative to shell out the money to get the projects started.

“Traditional P3s that require somebody to design, build and then operate (a toll road) historically take several years to get to the construction stage but through the build-sell model the ministry of transportation can get things moving fairly quickly,” says Vashti Singh, the association’s spokesman.

Just last week, the provincial Liberals introduced legislation which clears the way for P3s, but Singh says that alone won’t be enough unless the government is prepared to fund some of these projects, which can then be sold to private companies. He notes Hwy. 407 north of Toronto netted the province $3.1 billion when it was sold.

“The other advantage is that we get to use local companies to bid on the design and build portions, thus creating a lot of jobs. If we want to get the Olympics, we can’t afford to wait, we have to get moving,” Singh tells local media.

TransLink chairman, Doug McCallum, however, warns there are no guarantees of finding a buyer if the province shells out the startup capital, and not every route is an ideal P3 candidate.

“The new Fraser crossing and south Fraser Perimeter Road will be tolled but as to exactly how they will be financed has to be looked at very carefully,” says McCallum. “Sometimes P3s work well, but not in every case.”

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