The Ministry of Transport has announced that the Turcot complex will be designed and built in the mode design-build (“conception-construction”).
This mode of construction inherently prioritizes private over public interests. The choice of 'design-build' means that the construction firms selected will determine the final design, and Montrealers will have to wait for the final outcome. Of course, once the highway is rebuilt, it will be too late to make any changes!
The MTQ argues that the design-build mode ensures that their contractors will stay on budget and on schedule. This is far from guaranteed. Every construction contract contains clauses for “unexpected” costs, which drove up the costs of highway construction by 64$M in 2010-2011.
'Design-build' is not transparent
Less than 24 hours after being named Minister of Transport, Pierre Moreau promised that he would usher in a new culture of transparency within the MTQ. The reality has been exactly the opposite.
One example is the choice of 'design-build' for the Turcot project. 'Design-build' means that the public will not see a final version of the project before the work is completed. In this way, the private contractors are completely unaccountable to the public. To make matters worse, the final project (‘avant projet definitif’) which the Ministry claimed would be released in February 2012, will now only be available to the firms eligible to build on the project!
Allowing construction firms greater control in the design of highway infrastructure can also be dangerous and ultimately more costly. The Viger Tunnel Ville-Marie, a 'design-build' project built by SNC-Lavalin in 1972, was found to have a faulty design, and is now the subject of a legal dispute. Likewise, the Champlain Bridge, Montreal's most recent span across the St-Lawrence River, was a 'design-build' project that is in a dangerous state and must be replaced.
Because the firms are not responsible for long term infrastructure maintenance, 'design-build' costs of the taxpayer more in the long run. Clearly 'design-build' is the WRONG way to rebuild the Turcot!