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Canadian Construction Keeps Humming As Major Infrastructure Projects Roll Out

Working on the Inuvik to Tuktoyaktuk highway. (Photo courtesy of the Government of the Northwest Territories.)
Working on the Inuvik to Tuktoyaktuk highway. (Photo courtesy of the Government of the Northwest Territories.)

Road and bridge builders, paving companies and firms involved in industrial-commercial-institutional (ICI) construction should all be kept busy this year, keeping the demand for heavy equipment strong, as major infrastructure projects across Canada continue to progress and new ones start up.

We examined 10 major Canadian infrastructure projects that are either currently moving towards completion or under development for future work.

Evergreen Line

Construction of the Evergreen Line, which will link Metro Vancouver’s Skytrain light rail system to the eastern suburbs of Coquitlam and Port Moody, began in 2013. In June 2014, a 9.8-metre diameter, 1,100-tonne tunnel boring machine began a tunnel that will fit two tracks side by side. The $1.4-billion project involves the construction and installation of 11 kilometres of elevated and at-grade guideways, a two-kilometre bored tunnel, seven stations, power stations, train operating systems, parking facilities and a vehicle storage and light maintenance facility. The design-build contract for the Evergreen Line was awarded to EGRT Construction, a consortium that includes SNC-Lavalin Inc., Graham Building Services, International Bridge Technologies Inc., Jacobs Associates Canada Corporation, Rizzani de Eccher Inc., S.E.L.I. Canada Inc., SNCLavalin Constructors (Pacific) Inc., SNCLavalin Constructors (Western) Inc. and MMM Group Ltd. The line is expected to be complete and in service by the summer of 2016.

Calgary Airport

The Calgary Airport Authority has taken on an ambitious project to expand its runway and to build a new international passenger terminal that will double the size of the existing terminal. The $620-million runway expansion took three years to complete and opened last June. PCL/Parsons/ Dufferin was the construction manager tasked with building the 14,000-foot by 200-foot-wide runway, aircraft parking apron, taxiways and related infrastructure including a de-icing facility. During construction, 7.5-million cubic metres of earth were moved, while three new batch plants and new paving machines were employed to produce nearly 500,000 cubic metres of concrete paving, according to PCL. The new international terminal will add 22 gates and has a number of interesting features, including an 180,000-square-foot wooden ceiling, a custom-designed transit system, and nearly 700 kilometres of plastic tubing running through the floors for heating and cooling. The $1.4 billion project is expected to be finished by the end of this year.

SW Calgary Ring Road

Last summer, Alberta Transportation announced plans for the final 31-kilometre stretch of Stoney Creek Trail that will connect the TransCanada Highway with Macleod Trail. Construction of the “ring road” is divided into two separate projects, the West Calgary Ring Road and the Southwest Calgary Ring Road. The $5-billion project includes 66 bridges, 20 interchanges, two underpasses, 31 kilometres of divided highway and 10 kilometres of connector road upgrades. Alberta Transportation plans to start construction in 2016 and have the road built by 2020, but the deadline has been questioned recently considering the pullback in oil prices and its effect on Alberta’s Treasury. An added pressure is a clause in the 2013 land-swap agreement between the province and the Tsuu T’ina Nation, which underpins the project. Alberta must build the ring road within seven years of the land transfer, otherwise the land reverts back to the first nation.

Regina Bypass Project

In what has been described as the largest transportation infrastructure project in Saskatchewan’s history, the Regina Bypass Project is a twinned highway beginning on Highway 11 northwest of Regina and running south to the TransCanada Highway. The bypass then encircles the city about five kilometres south of Highway 1 to connect back to No. 1 on the east side of Regina. The $1-billion project also includes three overpasses. Last August three groups were shortlisted to build the bypass, which will be done as a public private partnership (P3). They are Queen City Infrastructure Group, SaskLink Global Transportation Partners and Wascana Development Partners. Construction is expected to start this summer and be finished by the fall of 2018.

Inuvik to Tuktoyaktuk, NWT

The 137-kilometre all-season road will link the far northern communities of Inuvik and Tuktoyaktuk, which is currently only served by ice road, barge and air. The highway is currently in its second construction season, with roadbuilding only taking place during winter when there is less risk of disruption due to permafrost. The two-lane highway will be packed with gravel, and the roadbed built a minimum of 1.8 metres above the tundra to provide a buffer from melting permafrost. Eight bridges are planned along the route, which extends the Dempster Highway to the Arctic coast. EGT-Northwind, a joint venture of E Gruben Transport and Northwind Industries, was awarded the $229 million contract. Costs are being split between the federal government, which is providing $200 million, and the Government of the Northwest Territories. Construction is expected to be finished by the fall of 2017 or winter 2018.

Windsor-Detroit Crossing

In February the Canadian and US governments reached an agreement to clear the way for construction of the New International Trade Crossing (NITC) between Detroit and Windsor. AED, the association representing Canadian and American construction equipment distributors, estimates the $2-billion project will create over $100 million in equipment market activity and support more than 150 equipment distributor jobs. In January the Windsor-Detroit Bridge Authority awarded a $17-million contract to Parsons Inc. for engineering work and technical advice. The authority has also started an application process for nearly 20 executive-team positions that will oversee construction of the bridge. The next step is for the WDBA to create a short list of construction companies that will be invited to submit requests for proposals. The P3 project is predicated on the financier-builder-operator-maintainer (FBOM) of the span receiving a rebate, through toll revenues, for their approximately $1-billion investment.

K2 Wind Power Project

In March 2014, ground was broken on the K2 Wind Power Project, a limited partnership between Capital Power LP, Samsung Renewable Energy Inc. and Pattern Renewable Holdings Canada ULC. The partners will build and operate a 270-megawatt wind farm in the Township of Ashfield-Colborne-Wawanosh, Ontario. According to K2 Wind Ontario, the work entails installation of 140 wind turbines on property leased from about 90 landowners. The site is adjacent to the 22-turbine Kingsbridge 1 Wind Operation, which has been operating since 2006. An $850 million financing was secured with 15 financial institutions in the form of a construction loan that will convert to long-term debt. Once operational in the second half of 2015, K2 Wind will generate power for approximately 100,000 homes annually.

Turcot Interchange

The contract the rebuild the road network from St. Pierre in west Montreal to Greene Avenue in the east was won by the consortium KPH-Turcot, the Quebec government announced in December 2014. The Turcot Interchange is where Highway 20 meets Highway 15 and the Ville-Marie Expressway. Built for Expo ‘67, it is Quebec’s busiest stretch of road. To minimize traffic disruption, the new interchange will be built beside or below the current one. The $3.7-billion project will also create 31.5 hectares of green space, 6.7 kilometres of new bike paths, and reserved lanes for buses on Highway 20. Road construction is expected to start this summer and be finished in 2020. The KPH-Turcot consortium includes engineering firm WSP Global – the lead designer on the project – along with Kiewit Construction, Parsons and Holcim Canada.

St. Lawrence Corridor

Work to replace the Champlain Bridge in Montreal started in 2013 with the building of a temporary causeway from Montreal to Nuns’ Island. The 55-year-old structure is corroding due to salt water eating away at its steel beams. The federally owned bridge is Canada’s busiest, carrying 156,000 vehicles a day.

The new bridge for the St. Lawrence corridor is one of the largest infrastructure projects in North America, with an estimated replacement cost of $3 billion to $5 billion. The project not only replaces the Champlain Bridge, but also includes a new île des Soeurs Bridge on Nun’s Island and reconstruction of parts of Autoroute 15. The new 3.4-kilometre-long bridge is expected to include three lanes in each direction for vehicle traffic and a separated span for public transit and bicycle/pedestrian paths. The project does not include demolition of the existing bridge. Last July, the federal government invited three consortia to submit requests for proposals for a new Champlain Bridge. They include Signature on the St. Lawrence Group, Saint-Laurent Alliance (SLA) and St. Lawrence New Bridge Partnership. The new bridge is expected to be built and operational by the end of 2018.

Muskrat Falls

The $6.9-billion Muskrat Falls mega project is the largest and most expensive construction initiative undertaken by the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador. Spearheaded by the province’s energy company, Nalcor Energy, work began in early 2013 with major excavation work for the Muskrat Falls hydroelectric generating facility. Work will continue on the powerhouse/ intake structure that will be about 85 metres high and on two large dams that combined will be longer than seven CFL football fields. Project scope includes construction of an 824-megawatt hydroelectric generating facility on the lower Churchill River in Labrador, and over 1,500 kilometres of transmission lines from Labrador to the island of Newfoundland. Last August the project reached a major construction milestone with the first concrete pour and in October, the first transmission tower was installed. 

Muskrat Falls hydroelectric project.

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