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Contractors cheer CFB Esquimalt utility project

Feb 21 2012

A $23-million underground construction project at CFB Esquimalt has boosted the spirits of contractors eager to compete for the job in the wake of a slow period for that sector.

"It's a great shot in the arm, especially right now," Peter White, chairman of the Vancouver Island Construction Association, said Monday.

The number of construction jobs available in the region has been low in the past couple of months, although some developers are planning highrises in the capital region, he said.

This new tender to build a crescent-shaped utility corridor more than 900 metres long at the navy base is one of the largest seen in Greater Victoria for many months. Its value is estimated at $23.185 million. Bids close at 2 p.m. on April 3. The project's lifespan is anticipated to be close to a year and a half.

White, a vice-president at Kinetic Construction, said it is likely the firm will bid on what is expected to be a complex project. "It is one that we have been waiting for."

The utility corridor is a critical phase in the years-long $250-million upgrading of Fleet Maintenance Facility Cape Breton, which repairs and overhauls vessels at the base. Defence Construction Canada is responsible for federal military construction.

In the summer of 2010, Knappett Projects Inc. of Victoria won the coveted $104-million job to build a new base for the 443 Maritime Helicopter Squadron at the Victoria International Airport.

John Knappett, company founder, said the corridor will be an interesting and "very difficult" project. "It's good to have something to bid after a very slow fall and winter."

Between 40 and 50 jobs are expected to be created by this project, including 20 electrical workers at its peak, said Philip Venoit, president of the Vancouver Island Building Construction Trades Council and business manager of Local 230 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.

"It's a big excavating job," he said. "This ongoing infrastructure work will definitely keep a number of construction workers busy."

Bruce Carter, Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce CEO, said that a project like this creates local work and uses local expertise. He said it also illustrates the impact the base has on the local economy.

Documents filed at the Vancouver Island Construction office illustrate the project's complexity. Two fat books, together 35 centimetres thick, contain the project's specifications. Three more volumes of detailed drawings outline the plans.

A cast-in place concrete corridor, about 46 cm thick, will consolidate and modernize various utilities now running through the site in various other locations. Utilities include electrical, sewer, water and steam still used to heat some of the buildings.

Racks on the walls will carry utilities through the corridor, which is designed to be roomy with an inside diameter of three metres by three metres. The project summary said that construction will take place in stages, with each stage finished prior to starting on the next. Vehicle and foot traffic must be maintained during the different stages of construction.

Documents show that rock removal is expected to create space for the corridor. This will likely require blasting, White said.

cjwilson@timescolonist.com

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