The 10-lane Port Mann bridge. (Transportation Investment Corp.)

Port Mann Bridge review points to B.C. government’s flaws in expertise, risk management

Report takes aim at how the $3.3 billion mega-project was handled

The B.C. government needs to fix how it manages risk, timelines and documents before it undertakes another mega-project like the Port Mann bridge, an independent report has found.

The 174-page report, commissioned last year from Perrin, Thorau and Associates by the province, outlined seven broad recommendations arising from replacing the 1964-built bridge with a new, 10-lane crossing to address substantial congestion problems.

The report took aim at the province’s inability to assemble the “people, business processes and information systems” required to undertake a project of this size.

The province couldn’t properly manage risks throughout the project, the report said, and had trouble estimating the schedule, progress payments and performance measures.

Changes to the way the project was managed didn’t undergo a “competitive pricing test” to ensure they were getting the best value, it added, though the province didn’t keep proper records to determine if there had been an attempt to secure lower pricing.

READ MORE: Port Mann, Golden Ears traffic up since tolls removed: report

The $3.37-billion cost was $48 million over from the initial approval of $3.32 billion in 2009, after a public-private partnership was nixed following the global recession the year before. The government chose to took on debt and fully fund the project.

The consultants were “surprised by the extent to which the province was unable to recover key documents” in relation to that decision.

As costs increased, the report found that the province needed a better way to distribute contingency funding and revise how it estimates price markups that happen when a contractor has to change parts of the project.

The first drivers to use the new Port Mann crossed in September 2012.

Tolls, which took effect the following December, were expected to raise $175 million each year, but by 2015-16, a report from the bridge’s operator, the Transportation Investment Corporation, showed an annual operating loss at more than $100 million per year.

The finance ministry recently responded that it had already implemented the recommendations on projects undertaken since the Port Mann.

It pointed to the Evergreen Line and upcoming Pattullo Bridge replacement as examples of where a “independent cost estimator” is on-site to ensure better costing out of major projects, and said it was undertaking a review of its record management system.


@katslepian

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