February 26, 2010
FEATURE | Roadbuilding
‘Nasty’ terrain just one of the challenges on Port Mann Highway 1 project
Clock ticked down, late penalties loomed amidst a sea of mud
The Port Mann Highway 1 project has involved working on some of the Lower Mainland’s most “nasty” terrain, meeting stringent environmental guidelines, and avoiding stiff penalties of up to $800,000 per hour for being on site past daily deadlines, says Don Jacobsen, project manager for Peter Kiewit Sons.
The terrain ranges from clay to silt, he said and there are often differing opinions on how to deal with it.
“We have had people who are Ph.Ds at the top of their field looking at this for six months,” he told a recent gathering of B.C. road builders
The challenge is “what is the best way to build something based on the geo-technical information.
“One of the biggest issues in this area is environmental,” said Jacobsen, adding crews fare hampered working in difficult terrain. “Everything they touch turns to mud.”
The PMH1 improvements are spread over a 37 kilometre stretch from Vancouver’s McGill Street Interchange through to Langley’s 216th Street, one of the busiest stretches of highway. The highway upgrades are approximately one-half of the $2.4 billion project cost.
The upgrade is a joint venture between crown corporation Transportation Investment Corp. and Kiewit-Flatiron General Partnership.
Hatch Mott MacDonald (HMM), an international firm with transportation expertise headquartered in New Jersey with an office in Vancouver, B.C. were lead engineers and prime consultants on the Sea-to-Sky Highway upgrade. The MMM Group, headquartered in Thornhill, Ontario with offices in Vancouver, Burnaby and Kelowna, was principal consultant for Edmonton’s Anthony Henday Drive ring road.
Jacobsen said the design is “50 per cent complete” and finishing in 2010 and involves some 31.1 million cubic metres of concrete for structures plus 36 bridges (over smaller streams and habitat to meet environmental considerations).
A 2008 environmental assessment report also identified 140 different culverts used by wildlife ranging from fish, to small frogs to skunks along the corridor, which had to be replaced or preserved.
Because of the distance and terrain, communications between the field and offices has been a major task.
As a result, the project was broken into segments with each having a field office and manager.
The segments are: West (McGill to Brunett with 48 employees and 62 crafts on site); Cape Horn (the largest dollar-cost segment with 94 staff and 153 crafts); the new Port Mann bridge with 133 staff employees and 142 crafts on site and the East (the new bridge to 216 St., Langley with 52 staff employees and 91 crafts).
The west segment required 433,000 cubic metres of excavation, 85,000 cubic metres of EPS fill, nine new bridges, 27,800 cubic metres of retaining walls, 115,00 cubic metres of granular sub-base and 198,000 tonnes of asphalt paving.
Cape Horn stretch also has “lots of nasty types of soil” with traffic management an on-going and major concern in the section, Jacobsen said.
In total there will be 432,000 cubic metres of excavation, 560,800 cubic metres of pre-load, 207,9000 cubic metre of EPS, 12 new bridges, 61,700 cubic meters of retaining wall, 137,000 of granular sub base; 139,00 tonnes of asphalt paving.
“Utilities were also a huge scope of the work,” he said, adding that a large sewer line had to be relocated.
Foundation work on new ramps east and west bound on Lougheed Highway off Highway 1 started in January.
The East section of the highway included widening two lanes in each direction.
Work entailed l,517,000 cubic metres of excavation, nine new bridges, 22,000 cubic metres of retaining wall, 349,000 cubic metres of granular sub base, and 339 tonnes of asphalt paving.
Where there were large installations such as a box culvert installed at 160th Ave, Jacobsen said, it had to be carefully planned and timed because of a “penalty ranging from $200,000 to $800,000 an hour built in” if the crews worked into the 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. window when the highway had to be open.
“We made a big effort to be off the highway in time,” he said.
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