By Andrew Macdonald
Behemoth Bedford road building entity, Dexter Construction is said to be doing a biz partnership with one of its strongest competitors, according to sources.

The Carl Potter outfit is doing a partnership with Nova Construction of Antigonish, according to sources.

Neither company responded to questions when contacted by The Macdonald Notebook.

Nova is owned by third generation road builder, Donald Chisholm, who cut his business spurs via his legendary road building dad, the late John ‘Nova’ Chisholm.

Dexter is the largest road builder in Atlantic Canada, and Nova Construction is second largest. The joint venture is to nab the bid for the P-3 104 HWY twinning, a 40-kilometre route. There will be no toll collected on the twinned route, despite the P-3 effort.

The joint partnership is only for the 104 HWY, The Macdonald Notebook understands – and not for other roads around the Maritimes, on that front it is business as usual for the competitors.

Donald Chisholm’s late dad, who died young at 68 in 2014, was a close friend of mine. In one of our last conversations, John Nova dead-panned to me that Hwy. 104 would not be twinned in either his lifetime or mine.

But, twinning is being done because former Highways minister Geoff MacLellan and current minister, Lloyd Hines had the fortitude and vision to get the work done.

Hines worked the lines in the Trudeau government for co-funding, and he had a sympathetic ear in regional minister Scott Brison who ensured that crucial Ottawa funding of $90 million would go to help twin the 104.

The untwinned, two-lane highway between New Glasgow and Antigonish has claimed the lives of 16 people since 2009.

Dexter and Nova Construction are doing an historic partnership to nab the lucrative 40-kilometre twinning project of Hwy. 104—a section of the Trans Canada Highway, according to well placed sources.

Transportation Minister Lloyd Hines will call a single design/build tender for that massive $300 million job. With global road builders likely to eye the single tender, Dexter and Nova Construction are attempting to position themselves to submit a winning bid.
International road builders from as far as France and Spain are expected to tender for the work in northeastern Nova Scotia.

The Macdonald Notebook hears such global giants like French entity Vinci and large Spanish outfit Dragados will most likely go after the Hwy. 104 work, say those familiar with global road building entities.

Hines wants the single winning bidder to also own the road in what is a public-private partnership.

The Stephen McNeil government is taking an Ontario government approach to the P-3 work, adding a local or provincial arrangement that Nova Scotia road building firms get a chance at the $300 million project.

As lead partners—if successful—Dexter and Nova Construction could then sub-contract smaller portions of the road work to medium sized firms such as Alva Construction of Antigonish, owned by A.G. & Allan MacDonald, and Zutphen Brothers of Mabou, owned by Vince van Zutphen.

Other medium-sized road builders in the region include Tom Hickey’s Atlantic Road Construction of Burnside, and PEI-based Chapman Brothers, which has been paving Nova Scotia roads since 1994, when it entered Nova Scotia to do a road job in St. Peter’s, Cape Breton.

Dexter has the capacity to do large work. In recent years, the firm won a $1 billion twinning job in New Brunswick.
Nabbing that work, led to Ontario giant Miller getting upset that Dexter moved into its terrain in New Brunswick. Miller then decided to establish a Nova Scotia beachhead and, in recent years, bought out Cumberland Paving of Amherst.

Another medium size firm is Scott Weeks Construction of New Glasgow.

Minister Hines has just let a request for qualification tender out for Hwy. 104, and up to five firms are expected to bid on that single work, including the international road builders, say sources.

That tender closes in October, and in January another tender will be given to those who qualify for the massive contract.

The New Glasgow-Antigonish road could be twinned for 40 kilometres and open to traffic in the next four or five years.