The B.C. government is seeking bids for one of the biggest reconstruction programs the province has ever seen, with the record-breaking flooding and destruction from a series of atmospheric rivers.
Construction companies and engineering and design firms are being asked to respond to two requests for qualifications to rebuild highways that were battered and broken during the storms since Nov. 14.
The BC Highway Reinstatement Program will cover work on Highway 1 between Highway 11 in Abbotsford and Spences Bridge, Highway 5 between Hope and Merritt, and Highway 8 between Spences Bridge and Merritt.
The latter two corridors remain closed while Highway 1 is shut down from Boston Bar to Spences Bridge. All three major routes suffered major damage during the extreme rainfall.
“Individually, we’ve seen this devastation before,” said Kelly Scott, president of the BC Road Builders and Heavy Construction Association.
“(But) we’ve never seen this magnitude of so many at one time.”
The 69-kilometre Highway 8 connecting Merritt and Spences Bridge was largely destroyed by a surging Nicola River.
On Highway 1 through the Fraser Canyon, a gaping hole at Jackass Mountain is part of the catastrophic damage south of Lytton.
About 130 kilometres of corridor was damaged on the Coquihalla Highway, where entire sections have crumbled. But Scott says contractors are ready for the monumental task of restoring those key transportation networks.
“We have the capacity and capability of taking this on,” he said.
Bidders may apply to qualify for projects between $20 million and $50 million, and projects greater than $50 million.
Work valued at under $20 million is expected to be handled by the province through existing contracts.
B.C’s transportation minister said engineering assessments are still being done to determine the full cost of recovery.
“It is fair to say that it will be very significantly expensive to rebuild our infrastructure,” Rob Fleming told Global News Friday, “and to build it to a higher more resilient standard.”
He added that discussions with the federal government are underway on disaster financial assistance and providing resources to help rebuild.
“We’re not sparing any resources on the efforts necessary to get highway infrastructure in every part of the province that’s experienced and sustained damage functioning again,” said Fleming.
Repairs are in progress on Highway 1 through the Fraser Canyon, on Highway 8 and on the Coquihalla, with crews saving any infrastructure still usable.
Climate change-resilient design guidelines will apply to all new construction.
“This may have been a 100-year flood, but we have to be rebuilding for longer-type floods, 1,000-year floods,” said Scott.
He said Highway 1 may reopen shortly, but other roads like the Nicola Highway will take longer.
“It’s terrible devastation,” Scott told Global News. “You can’t see where highway started nor where it ended.”
According to both requestions for qualifications, financial incentives may be included in the contract and may be linked across multiple projects to get the work done quickly.