On-Site Magazine

Concrete On-Site: Big project, big rewards

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March 1, 2012 by Andrew Snook

It’s often said Canada has two seasons: winter and construction. Although road construction and maintenance are nothing new during Canada’s summers, one particular project stood out in 2011 and was awarded the 2011 Ontario Concrete Award for Infrastructure—the QEW Niagara Widening.

Projects submitted for the annual concrete awards were judged based on a variety of criteria, including: how extensively concrete products were used, unique or creative ways of using concrete materials, innovative construction techniques, concrete mix design innovation, if concrete products provided economy to the structure and the level of significance concrete products played in the functionality of the project.

At $167 million, the Ministry of Transportation of Ontario (MTO) 2007-2027 QEW Niagara Widening was the largest single highway contract ever awarded by the MTO.

The project involved the widening of a 9.4-km section of the QEW Niagara from four lanes to six lanes from Highway 406 to the Garden City Skyway through the City of St. Catharines, Ont.—the last portion of the QEW between Toronto, Ont. and Niagara Falls, Ont. that had not been widened to six lanes.

It also included the construction of a median tall wall barrier for approximately 9.4 kilometres, the installation of shoulder concrete barriers on both sides of the QEW, approximately 5.4 kilometres of noise walls in residential areas, demolishing old bridges and constructing new overpasses (seven bridges reconstructed or rehabilitated), a new storm drainage system, retained soil systems (RSS) slopes, landscaping to address aesthetics, vegetation and wildlife as well as a variety of improvements to municipal streets.

The project’s contract was awarded to Oakville, Ont.-based Dufferin Construction Company, A division of Holcim (Canada) Inc. and the material was supplied by Dufferin Concrete and Armtec Limited Partnership, headquartered in Guelph, Ont.

The concrete used for this project had a specified strength of either 30 or 35 MPa and was used in the various applications, including: noise wall footings, high mast illumination footings and sign bases, slope paving, cast in place barriers, tall wall medians, bridge decks, substructures, parapet walls, culverts, approach slabs, bridge structures and concrete overlays.

Dufferin Concrete supplied all the concrete for the project with its plants in Beamsville, Ont. and Niagara Falls, Ont. acting as the primary facilities—both locations were about a 20-minute drive to the project.

Representatives from Dufferin said the biggest challenges to the project were keeping the lanes open and maintaining minimal distraction to the oncoming traffic.

Morrison Hershfield Ltd. was the engineer of record and the project is owned by the MTO.

Also participating in the project were: Aluma Systems Inc., Harris Rebar, Highway Construction Inspection, Ironworkers Local 736, LIUNA Local 837, Peninsula Construction and Weinmann Electric Ltd.

The expansion’s construction ran from spring 2007 to August 2011, and had a final cost of approximately $199 million, with the majority paid for by the Province of Ontario—the Government of Canada paid approximately $42 million of the cost, made possible through the $600-million Border Infrastructure Fund.

When the project was completed, St. Catharines MP Rick Dykstra stated that the widening of the QEW would improve the quality of life for St. Catharines’ families living in that corridor by reducing commute times and creating jobs.

More than six months have passed since then, and Dykstra says all those things are ringing true.

“From a local perspective, the widening of the lanes has been very well received by residents and from the feedback I’ve gotten, it was something everyone has been pleased with,” he said. “The widening has also been good for local industry, as ‘just in time’ deliveries are finally getting in on time, meaning that there are fewer holdups with production, which is good for jobs and the local economy. Tourism has also benefited now that those bottleneck traffic jams heading into the Niagara region have disappeared.”

For more information on the QEW Niagara Widening project or any other Ontario Concrete Award winners, visit: www.ontarioconcreteawards.ca 

OCA Judging Panel

The 2011 Ontario Concrete Awards judging panel consisted of: Rob Burak (Canadian Precast/Prestressed Concrete Institute), Greg Delfosse (Works Transportation, City of Brampton), Savio DeSouza (Coffey Geotechnics Inc.), Neb Erakovic (Halcrow Yolles), Gordon Erskine (Erskine Dredge Associates), Rico Fung (Cement Association of Canada), Doug Hooton (University of Toronto), John Hull (Ready Mixed Concrete Association of Ontario) and Alexander Rankin (GRC Architechs Inc.).

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