Want to know how much it costs to build a road,bridge or overpass?

For those interested in these matters – and I am finding more and more of you are asking about this – the following PDF file is the Ministry of Transportations Construction and Rehabilitation Cost Gude for 2010. This gives the reader and indication of construction costs taken from the low-end tender and even the  least knowledgeable reader can clearly see in the included examples, how much is alloted for contingencies and unforseen costs… which is a good indicator of why costs can spiral out of control rather quickly.

You can access  or even download this cost guide in PDF format here: Cost_Guide_May5-2010

And while we are talking about exorbitant cost of doing business in the Ministry of Transportation and Highways…. here is a little something- something that will make you go hmmmm…. courtesy of someone in the know.

“One issue that in a sense pales in comparison, yet is serious enough that someone should start talking about, is the early retirement scam that has been practiced by our illustrious civil servants for years.

 I only know how the Highways people operate it, but believe it is pretty standard in most of the ministries in Victoria. It is not unique to BC (the basic idea has crept into many unionized government jurisdictions across the continent), but it is blatantly corrupt enough that someone like you should be getting it into the public realm.

The game works like this: the folks have a cute formula known as something like 50-30 (that is not quite the term they use, but it and the formula are in the public domain–probably in the union agreements each packs around in his pocket).
The deal is if you have at least 30 years service, and are over 50 years old (similarly, I probably don’t have it quite right, but it is public info), you can retire with a pension of something like 90% of your last years’ wages. Then you hire on with a company called either Focus Construction Management Services or Focus Engineering at about double your previous pay scale, and Focus hires you out to the Ministry of Highways to manage their projects.
 It is slam-dunk, because there is no-one left at the ministry with any experience (it takes a lot of years to learn the business, which roughly coincides with the early retirement age when they all leave) so they have to hire a consultant–and all of the experienced highway people work for Focus.
You’ve probably seen Focus pickups all over BC, carrying ex-MOTH people who are doing surveying, design and construction management on highway projects–now taking in almost triple the pay they got before ‘retirement’.
They all do it, and that is part of the story about why there are no competent people left in the ministry. Even Dan Doyle used Focus as his gravy-train between political assignments such as the Olympics and BC Hydro. It also fills in part of the story of ‘exorbitant cost-of-government’.
Check it out. And have fun with it!
Oh,it’s true all right. In fact, consultants fees are often astronomical on public projects, and at some point the government has even used that as an argument for Partnerships BC…. however,if you would like to see how much the Ministry of Transportation is paying CMS Focus Construction Management Services, among other companies hired as consultants only ( read, very, very costly rates) you can see all the contracts awarded to them in this PDF file showing everything contracted out between April and October of this year. Selection_Awards
Seems to me it would be a much more prudent move to keep qualified people on staff and pay them unionized rates, send them to where-ever to work, rather than contract out these lucrative jobs and have someone who was a MOT staffer getting paid three times the rate to do the same thing…. but then again, since when has the  government ever been cost-efficient?
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17 Responses to Want to know how much it costs to build a road,bridge or overpass?

  1. Lynn says:

    To quote President Ronald Reagan:
    “The nine most terrifying words in the English language are: ‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help you.”


  2. Rick says:

    Geesh.Another scam.I guess I’m in the wrong line of work,because when I’mretired no on is going to want to hire me for three times my regular wage.Hehe!


  3. Naked Ape says:

    It is the same game in Health-care IT departments (the ones that Canada Health Infoway is funding to produce ten completely separate, but somehow ‘interoperable’ electronic health records… one for each province).

    When your years of service and age add up to 80, you have reached your ‘magic 80′ date and you get your full pension.

    The only difference with the scenario described above is that the consulting firm in the health care IT case is the Courtyard Group.


  4. KenC says:

    I have to say I really don’t like the tone of your “someone in the know”. He/she seems more interested in doing some union bashing rather than revealing some sort of scam. Double dipping is not news, nor is it something only practiced by civil servants or other union members. I know of several people who were neither civil servants or union members who are currently drawing a nice pension as well as consulting. I guess they are all scam artists.


    • Laila says:

      Ken, I can assure you he is not union-bashing, rather pointing out how such practices are costing the government a ridiculous amount of money in consulting fees – and I agree with that. Generally, I really have no problem with the concept of retired people consulting to make some extra cash. I do have a problem with senior level MOT, Translink, Health ministry employees billing back the government at three times what they made in wages, for the same job, or relatively similar, after they have retired.

      Is that in the best interest of the taxpayers, or the provincial budget? Certainly not. There should be a training program and professional fast-track initiative to prepare the ministry for those expected and vacant retirement positions so there is no need for that particular retired official to be double-dipping.

      Another thing to think of, is that when the government is hiring or contracting non union consultants, that alone takes credible union positions away.

      In my view, its the government that is union bashing, not my source.


    • G. Barry Stewart says:

      I agree about the sour tone of the “in the know” source. He seems to have a hate on for union workers, as in: “… probably in the union agreements each packs around in his pocket.”

      The pension plan is also far over-enriched, as with a factor-90 plan, you get 70% (2% per year x 35 years of service) of the average of your best 5 years — not 90% of your last year. I wish!


  5. Dave says:

    “… you can retire with a pension of something like 90% of your last years’ wages.”

    Umm. No.

    I know I’ll sound pedantic, but that kind of misinformation damages the otherwise excellent thrust of your article. Civil service pensions are not bad, but they’re certainly not that good. The formula is slightly more complex.

    This is much more accurate:


    • Laila says:

      Thanks for that Dave – as he did point out, he wasn’t sure of the rate or the exact calculation, so that link is good clarification. You don’t sound pedantic at all – I cut and pasted it exactly as he sent it, to let people find out for themselves. The point he really was making remains the same, however ,that for these high level MOT employees that are making big bucks before retirement, they are in essence,double dipping at a rate far above what they made as a wage.


  6. KenC says:

    I don’t know Laila but when someone uses words like “early retirement scam”, “illustrious civil servants”, and “blatantly corrupt” when they’re referring specifically to unionized government workers it sure sounds like they’re bashing someone.

    BTW I’m curious why you think consultants should be considering the best interests of taxpayers. Isn’t that what the government is supposed to do?


    • Laila says:

      Ken, if you have read some of the posts I have done, in particular Tercon vs. BC, you’ll see that in the MOT, there have been examples of high level civil servants whose activities have been presented in a court of law as being onerous and nearly criminal. I don’t care if those people are in a union, destroying documents, changing names, hiding the truth and practicing outright deception in a bid situation, that’s not right.

      And where did I say consultants should be considering the best interests of the taxpayer? I haven’t said that anywhere. Go read my post, and my replies again.


  7. Curt says:

    2 Relatives of mine worked in the public service, different areas of government all together. Pensions: 1=1300 (20 years) 1= 1475 (25 years). and then taxes. I guess if you consider that a lucrative pension. Wow. They weren’t 35 years (full pension) and they didn’t have the magic number 90.
    But I do recall a friend of mine when they privatized highways, he was hired back – laughing all the way to the bank. Siad he was making 3x what he was making as a govt’ employee. the govt brought them back in house after a few years.


    • Laila says:

      I think with anything, it varies with your position. Most of the people my source is referring to are not your average public servant, but high and senior level officials that are making far above what the run of the mill worker would be. And there you go. If the Ministry was running things properly, then there would be no need to continually hire consultants that used to work for them, as I mentioned, they should be training and preparing other staff to fill those postings when they become vacant.


  8. Drew says:

    This makes my blood boil. Who is going to pay for all this crap? Wake up BC, we are being taken for a ride. We have a right to good government not this blatant cronyism.


  9. North Van's Grumps says:


    RISP its another one like ADM

    All these Acronyms that these BC Liberal keep coming up with are starting to make me understand why Grade 4s are having problems with their Reading / writing skills.

    The manual says this about itself on the matter of RISP

    “This Manual describes the British Columbia Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure’s (BCMoT) ,Registration, Identification, Selection and Performance Evaluation, or RISP, system for consultants providing engineering, technical and
    environmental consulting services on roadway projects. Its purpose is to help readers understand RISP and how it works.



  10. johnsaghast says:

    Told you! Wonder when the ‘Cost Guide to Build a Port Mann Bridge’ will come out.


  11. G. Barry Stewart says:

    The double-dipping (at 3x the rate) scheme certainly sounds slimy — but before I light my hair on fire, I’d need to know that the consultants are billing the same hours as they did before “retiring.” If it’s only on an as-needed basis — and if that basis is 1/4 what they used to do, then no biggie. I’ll also assume there are no benefits for these contractors, as there were when they were employees.

    I agree there’s plenty of room for abuse and secrecy, though.


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