The Tranquille overpass re-opening did not occur Tuesday as expected, frustrating drivers and costing Tranquille Road businesses revenue. But who is to blame?
The re-opening is now scheduled for Thursday at 7 a.m. Delays are due to problems the Surrey contractor, Retro Specialty, has had renting equipment in town, City of Kamloops streets manager Jim McNeely said Tuesday.
"Some contributing factors are that they're from out of town and they just can't go to their local storage yard and get what they need."
The reason three Kamloops companies bidding for the job were passed over in favour of an out-of-town contractor — and the ensuing headaches — was because ICBC, which is compensating the City, "basically required" them to take the lowest bid, said McNeely.
Retro Specialty's bid of $37,000 was the lowest.
"So there's no cost to the taxpayer, but of course there's a maximum impact because the bridge is closed and traffic is not flowing as normal and the business people on Tranquille are being impacted," he said.
With every day delayed, Tranquille Road businesses are reportedly losing thousands more.
Les Gagnon, manager of Knowles Exhaust, says he's losing 50 per cent of his business, or between $1,000 and $2,000 a day.
And talk among the neighbouring businesses is that they're all feeling the same pinch, he said.
"It's costing all these businesses way more than $37,000 to get that bridge fixed, I can tell you that," he said. "Thanks a lot, ICBC."
But ICBC categorically denies the Crown Corporation was involved in choosing the contractor.
"That's not true," said ICBC spokesperson Mark Jan Vrem. "The City made the decision to put it out to competitive bid and then the City also selected the successful bidder. ICBC did not instruct the City or require the City to do either of those, quite frankly."
Jan Vrem said ICBC's involvement is limited to an overseeing engineer. However, he couldn't say whether that engineer had imposed conditions on the tendering process.
McNeely said that response is an about face for ICBC.
"It's good news. It doesn't help for this particular situation, but I guarantee you that bridge will get hit again. So if we are not required to go out to tender, if we can get a suitable quote and do the quote based on that, we can do it much quicker, truly. So that's great."
A request for proposal (rather than a call for tenders) can allow the City to undertake a cost analysis with consideration for myriad other factors like the time it would take, whether it would generate local jobs and impact on business.
Under those conditions, a local contractor the City knows to be reliable that had a bid $6,000 higher may have ended up with the Tranquille overpass job and may have completed it by now, said McNeely.
As it is, the concrete was poured Monday and today it will be inspected for strength, said McNeely. Equipment used to brace the bridge from underneath is blocking a northbound lane on Fortune Drive, and that should also be removed sometime Wednesday.
Meanwhile, untold numbers of drivers trying to get away from the Fortune Drive traffic snarl are also feeling it in their pocketbooks.
With the overpass closed, the intersection of Fortune Drive and Leigh Road is the first opportunity drivers have to turn left and connect with Tranquille Road. The intersection rules were changed to allow left hand turns, complete with a dedicated lane and traffic light.
However, drivers continue to turn left into an alleyway 100 metres south where a "no left turn" sign is posted.
Many of them make the turn anyway, only to run into an RCMP cruiser and an officer at the end of the alley ready to hand out $127 tickets to each offender.
Although RCMP weren't able to provide the number of tickets issued for left turns into the alleyway since May 11, locals have reported seeing police issue as many as 50 over the course of a weekend.
Police acknowledge there has been heightened presence.
"While perhaps some people are upset by the enforcement, an equal number of people are upset by people who turn there to create an obstruction to the traffic flow," said Staff Sgt. Grant Learned.