Public-Private Partnerships successes recognized with awards

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A 500-kilometre-long transmission line boosting power to northeastern Alberta and a unique Ontario university student housing project are among the five winners of this year’s National Awards for Innovation and Excellence in Public-Private Partnerships.

Presented by The Canadian Council for Public-Private Partnerships (CCPPP) since 1998, the prestigious awards will be handed out at CCPPP’s 26th annual conference – P3 2018 – on Nov. 5 in Toronto.

The five infrastructure projects, in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Ontario, run the gamut from health care to social housing, transportation to energy. They were selected for breaking new ground in how P3s are built, financed or deliver services, as well as their impact on boosting the economy, cost savings and creating more vibrant, inclusive communities.

“CCPPP and its members congratulate the five winners of this year’s National Awards for Innovation and Excellence in Public-Private Partnerships,” said Mark Romoff, president and CEO of CCPPP.

“These projects represent the hard work and dedication of thousands of people across Canada who are making these critically important infrastructure projects a reality. Their exceptional leadership and innovative thinking are what continues to distinguish the Canadian P3 model as globally best-in-class,” he said.

“I also want to recognize and thank our blue-ribbon awards committee for volunteering their time to choose this year’s winners, a hugely challenging task given the high quality of all projects that were submitted. A large tip of the hat, too, to our award sponsors.”

“It’s always exciting to see that even though public-private partnerships have been used across Canada for more than 20 years, the sector is still innovating to improve outcomes,” said awards committee chair Cliff Inskip, President of Polar Star Advisory Services Inc. “Once again this year, we received an impressive range of high-quality submissions.”

Gold Award Winners

Fort McMurray West 500 kV Transmission Project (Project Financing Award): This vital power project, stretching 500 kilometres northeast from Edmonton, will increase the capacity and overall reliability of Alberta’s transmission system in order to meet booming demand in the Fort McMurray area when it becomes operational in 2019. This is also the first transmission infrastructure P3 to be procured in Canada.

The awards committee commended the project’s use of a “unique funding competition that took place after the route for the transmission line was finalized and regulatory approval had been granted, resulting in significant savings for the public.”

The competition resulted in a combination of medium- and long-term bonds priced to appeal to different investors and a dual tranche structure that created a very cost effective quarterly pay financing. Sponsors with upfront project development activities will be keenly interested in the ground-breaking approach Alberta has taken with this mega-project, the committee said.

At the time of award, the cost savings were estimated to be more than $400 million — approximately 25 per cent of total capital costs.

Partners: Alberta Electric System Operator and Alberta PowerLine Limited Partnership, a consortium of Canadian Utilities Ltd., Quanta Services CC Canada Ltd., Valard Construction LP and ATCO Electric.

The City of Saskatoon’s North Commuter Parkway & Traffic Bridge Project
(Infrastructure Award): When Saskatoon residents and civil and Indigenous leaders came together to celebrate the official opening earlier this month, it was clear this project was about more than improved infrastructure and reduced commutes. It was also building a more inclusive community.

The new six-lane bridge on the Parkway pays tribute to Chief Mistawasis, the Cree Chief who signed Treaty 6, while the modern steel-truss structure of the rehabilitated Traffic Bridge uses complex engineering to preserve its historical character while meeting today’s safety standards.

The project is the largest infrastructure project ever delivered in the City of Saskatoon and the first bundled transportation P3 in Canada. “The city and consortium worked closely together to ensure community engagement, to manage artifact recovery and to accelerate approvals. The project bundling helped to significantly lower costs for residents and improve traffic in a bustling part of the city.” The project’s cost savings by using the P3 delivery model are estimated at $69.4 million, compared to conventional project procurement.

Partners: City of Saskatoon and Graham Commuter Partners, a consortium of Graham Infrastructure, ASL Paving, BBGI, Buckland & Taylor Ltd., Clifton Associates Ltd., National Bank Financial, Tetra Tech and Urbaser Environment (Valorga).

Silver Award Winners

Quad at York University (Service Delivery Award): Every student knows how important it is to be close to campus to optimize time for classes, research and studying. In August 2017, York University opened the first phase of Quad, offering much-needed apartment-style accommodations for more than 800 students in Toronto.

The project is among the largest student housing P3 endeavours ever undertaken in Canada and uses a model that freed York from risks associated with capital costs, operations and maintenance, enabling the university to focus its resources on its academic mission.

Under the agreement, Forum-Campus Suites operates and maintains the new housing on land leased from the university, and York ensures the needs of its students are met by providing guidance on the private sector’s operations. In addition to lease revenues, York also benefits from additional payments based on the success of the project.

Designed with the student in mind, the P3 model has created “a real partnership at York that has resulted in a purpose-built community that provides a live/work/play environment with significant student amenity space. This environment has led to quick improvements in how and where services are provided to the benefit of busy students,” the awards committee noted. “The Quad P3 could prove a useful model for similar social housing projects in municipalities and universities across Canada.”

Partners: York University and Forum-Campus Suites

Milton District Hospital Expansion
(Infrastructure Award): As one of Canada’s fastest growing communities, Milton needed to improve and expand its hospital — and fast. Opened in October 2017, the 455,000-sq. foot facility means residents of all ages and abilities can stay close to home and access a wide range of health-care services.

The expansion, designed with community, staff and patient input, was delivered on time and on budget in just 25 months and took place without disrupting essential and lifesaving clinical services at the existing hospital building. The project, which employed 600 workers at its construction peak and created 200 new jobs within the hospital, transferred significant risk to the private sector partner and resulted in projected cost savings of $124.9 million.

“This project is remarkable in how well the community, health-care staff and partners worked together to create an integrated hospital that truly put the needs of Milton residents at its core,” said the awards committee.

“The high degree of collaboration among the various parties and the smooth integration of client feedback contributed to very few changes during construction and a relatively limited number of minor deficiencies at substantial completion. This challenging but very successful brownfield development involving integration with the adjacent operating hospital building demonstrates what can happen when the same firms partner on multiple projects of the same type and become leaders in the field.”

Partners: Halton Healthcare and Plenary Health, a consortium of Plenary Group Canada Ltd., PCL Constructors Canada Inc., B+H Architects, RTKL Associates, RBC Capital Markets and Johnson Controls Canada LP. Infrastructure Ontario acted as the procurement agency.

Finch West LRT Project
(Project Financing Award): Under construction in northwestern Toronto, the 11-kilometre light-rail system is an Ontario government priority to transform the busy Finch Avenue West corridor. The LRT system will have 18 stops to connect commuters and families to local and regional transit services; deliver economic and job creation opportunities; and transform Finch Avenue West into a vibrant community, accessible to motorists, transit riders, cyclists and pedestrians alike. The LRT is expected to open in 2023.

The awards committee found that the project has “clear benefits to the community and economy,” noting the consortium is developing an apprenticeship plan to ensure historically disadvantaged groups are involved in constructing the line.

The $1.4-billion Finch West LRT project utilized more than $800 million in private financing consisting of short-term bank financing combined with a cost efficient combination of medium- and long-term bonds.  The project reached financial close in an “impressive” 26 days — an Ontario P3 record, the awards committee noted. Importantly for an LRT project, the financing structure was also designed to accommodate future system expansion. Overall, the P3 project has an estimated cost savings of $566 million via the alternative financing and procurement model.

Partners: Infrastructure Ontario, Metrolinx and Mosaic Transit Group, a consortium of Aecon Concessions, ACS Infrastructure and CRH Canada Group Inc.

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