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Infrastructure Ontario spending billions this year
A look at some of the projects in the works overseen by Infrastructure Ontario.
June 29, 2015
Robert Benzie

Infrastructure Ontario’s to-do list reads like a politician’s wish list.

The provincial agency responsible for overseeing the financing and construction of public works, which has completed $12 billion in projects in the first decade of its existence, has $15 billion under construction, and an additional $8 billion in planning stages.

Among the highlights of IO’s spring “market update” to private partners are Mississauga’s Hurontario LRT and building high-occupancy vehicle lanes for Hwy. 401.

The list of projects does not include the agency’s role in any Gardiner Expressway renewal, the Scarborough subway extension, the Eglinton Crosstown line, or regional express rail.

In a letter to stakeholders last week, IO president and CEO Bert Clark said the list of 23 upcoming builds “confirms a robust pipeline of social and civil infrastructure projects using alternative financing and procurement (AFP).”

AFP is the Ontario government’s term for private-public partnerships that provincial auditor general Bonnie Lysyk criticized last December because they can cost more than publicly financed projects.

Clark’s missive notes the locally developed financing and procurement method, which is now being studied by many jurisdictions around the world, is being “refined.”

That’s to improve the balance between financing costs and transferring risk of delays to the private sector.

While private-public partnerships can be more expensive due to private companies paying higher interest rates than governments, there tend to be fewer cost overruns because contractors have to pay penalties for late delivery.

Over the next 10 years, Premier Kathleen Wynne has pledged to spend $130 billion in infrastructure — including $31.5 billon in public transit and transportation. This year alone, $11.9 billion in construction spending is planned.

Queen’s Park sees the AFP financing method as a form of insurance against over-budget projects, but wants to limit its use mostly to larger initiatives that cost more than $100 million.

“IO . . . will make prudent adjustments to progress and substantial completion payments in order to reduce long-term financing costs without reducing the transfer of risks to the private sector,” wrote Clark.

He said that the agency and the Ministry of Economic Development, Employment and Infrastructure are “are working to implement all recommendations from the auditor general’s 2014 annual report.”

“(We) . . . will continue to strike a balance in determining which complex projects are suited for AFP and how much private finance is required to protect the government from risks”

Highlights from the to-do list
Mount Sinai Hospital: A large-scale renovation of the downtown Toronto hospital with a redeveloped critical care unit, an expanded, redesigned emergency department, and ambulatory care area.

Hwy. 427 expansion: A new 6.6 kilometre extension from Hwy. 7 to Major Mackenzie Dr. and a 4 kilometre widening from south of Albion Rd. to Hwy. 7.

Hwy. 401 HOV lanes: Adding high-occupancy vehicle lanes along one of North America’s busiest highways through Halton and Peel regions to encourage carpooling and reduce traffic.

Hurontario LRT: A $1.6-billion 23-kilometre, 26-stop light-rail transit line along Hurontario and Main in Mississauga and Brampton that should be up in running within seven years.

LCBO headquarters: Selling the prime waterfront land currently home to the Liquor Control Board of Ontario’s head office at 55 Lake Shore Blvd. E. and ensuring the purchaser provide the LCBO with a new head office and Queens Quay store.

OPP: Modernizing Ontario Provincial Police facilities across the province by building new detachments.