Bidders short-listed to modernize Ontario highway service centres

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TORONTO, Ont. — The Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure Ontario announced today the four companies short-listed to submit proposals to design, build, finance, maintain and operate Ontario’s 23 service centres across Highways 400 and 401.

“Ontario’s highway service centres are important to travellers and tourists who rely on them for a safe place to rest, eat and refuel,” said Transportation Minister Jim Bradley. “I am glad this project is moving forward. The new operator will renovate these centres, with modern amenities to create a positive reflection of Ontario.”

The bidders short-listed for this project were pre-qualified through the request for qualifications (RFQ).

The short-listed bidders include: reas (Anonimous Society) S.A., Brookfield Asset Management Inc./Trinity Development Group, Host Kilmer Services Centres Inc., and Morguard Service Centres SPV.

“We’re pleased to see so much interest in this project,” said Minister of Public Infrastructure Renewal David Caplan. “It’s exciting to see our infrastructure renewal efforts attracting the types of organizations whose experience will help us to provide world-class services to the public and create economic opportunities for local communities.”

The short-listed bidders have varied backgrounds in commercial development and managing highway service areas, as well as, retail, food and beverage concessions.

A RFQ was issued on Aug. 28 and closed in Oct. 24. Bidders were pre-qualified based on their capabilities and approach to partnering with the Ontario Ministry of Transportation as well as, their development, operations, and financial capacity for projects of this size and complexity.

The pre-qualified bidders will be invited to respond to a RFP in winter 2008.

The redeveloped service centres will provide many benefits to motorists, officials say. The new operator will be required to keep the facilities open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, year-round. Also, the service centres will provide travellers a place to park and rest, buy fuel and food, and use public telephones, washrooms, picnic areas and drinking fountains.

As part of the RFP proposals, bidders will need to demonstrate a commitment to road safety. They will be asked to optimize the use of the service area lands and to recommend innovative services to better serve the travelling public and commercial motorists.

“Modernizing the service centres will help to build Ontario’s tourism industry and provide opportunities for us to showcase local adventures and vibrant communities” said Minister of Tourism Peter Fonseca.

The Ontario Ministry of Transportation will manage the procurement of the new operator with Infrastructure Ontario, a Crown Corporation dedicated to the renewal of the province’s hospitals, courthouses and other essential public assets.

The Owner-Operators’ Business Association of Canada has already met with officials to provide insight into what truckers might be looking for in a highway service area.

“We’ve already put forward a tonne of ideas about what would make a service centre ‘trucker friendly’ and we’ll be working with Infrastructure Ontario, MTO and the winning firm as the project moves forward,” said OBAC executive director, Joanne Ritchie. “But don’t hold your breath we’re talking about government, after all so we’re not likely to notice changes until sometime in 2009. And while we’ll see improved services with this project, it’s not likely to result in a lot more parking spaces; they’re working with existing sites and there’s a limit to how much they can optimize land use. In any case, we’ve made one small step forward albeit on only a few hundred kilometres out of the thousands our trucks travel over each day.”

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