February 20, 2010


Work on widening the highway on both sides of the Fraser River is well underway. Construction workers are busy on the west side of the Port Mann Bridge.

FEATURE | Roadbuilding & Surveying

Nasty terrain, stiff penalties make Port Mann Bridge Highway 1 project a challenge

The Port Mann Highway 1 (PMH1) project has involved working on some of the Lower Mainland’s most nasty terrain, but work continues.

Other challenges have included meeting stringent environmental guidelines and avoiding stiff penalties of up to $800,000 per hour for being on site past daily deadlines.

Don Jacobsen, project manager for Peter Kiewit Sons Co., told a B.C. Road Builders and Heavy Construction Association luncheon meeting about the project.

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 and top of their field looking at this for six months,” he said, adding the challenge was to determine the best way to build something based on the geotechnical information.”

“One of the biggest issues in this area is environmental,” he said.

Crews face the added challenge of working in difficult terrain.

“Everything they touch turns to mud,” he said.

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 about 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.

Two engineering firms are working on the design. Hatch Mott MacDonald and the MMM Group.

Jacobsen said the design is 50 per cent complete and will be finished in 2010.


Sanitary main replacement is also part of the project.

It involves about 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.

The project was broken into segments with each having a field office and manager.

The segments are: West (McGill to Brunette 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 (stryrofoam-like material), nine new bridges, 27,800 cubic metres of retaining walls, 115,000 cubic metres of granular sub-base and 198,000 tonnes of asphalt paving.

The 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, 207,900 cubic metres of EPS, 12 new bridges, 61,700 cubic metres of retaining wall, 137,000 tonnes of granular sub base; 139,000 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.

When there were large installations such as a box culvert installed at 160th Ave, Jacobsen said, it had to be carefully planned and timed.

There exists 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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These projects have been selected from 479 projects with a total value of $1,224,678,004 that Reed Construction Data Building Reports reported on Wednesday.


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