Pressrelease - Tamrock 03/18/2005
A Safer Stretch
Kiewit staffers know that roadwork on B.C.’s sea to sky Highway requires as much finesse as it does diligence.
Story by OWEN TURNER
This stretch of scenic but dangerous B.C. road used to bear the grim nickname “sea to die Highway.” The roadway passes through five different microclimates from West Vancouver northwards to Whistler. Highway 99’s official name is the sea to sky, but in the more than 30 years since it was built it has earned the nickname with an average of 138 injuries, six deaths and 150 property damage accidents per year on the two-lane road.
A 2004 B.C. government traffic study indicated that the volume of traffic on the highway would continue to increase – by as much as 62% by the year 2025, according to the Ministry of transportation – resulting in more congestion on a highway where the average speed was 55 km/h. It was clear the road needed an overhaul. With the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games looming, the government budgeted an estimated $600 million for the project and, in 2005, awarded the contract to S2S transportation Group, which has a design-build contract with Peter kiewit sons, Inc.
The sea to sky Highway Improvement Project required upgrades to 65 out of 100 kilometres of the road to be carried out while the existing highway remained in operation. Mobilizing more than $50-million worth of equipment in a short time frame – all while keeping the road in operation – was a challenge, says kiewit engineering Manager, david Wallace.
“One of the advantages kiewit has is a good working relationship with caterpillar,” says Wallace. “the type of equipment we need is medium sized: cat 330, 345, 365, 385, 730, 735 and 740; backhoes and articulated trucks and 769 off-highway trucks. Because of the terrain challenges we have a very mobile and versatile fleet out there.”
The equipment may be medium sized, but the project is huge. Crews will create or improve more than 80 kilometres of passing lanes along the 100-kilometre highway between Horseshoe Bay and Whistler.
They will install 36 kilometres of raised or median barriers along the length of the highway; re-barriers along the length of the highway; reflective pavement markings; sightlines and 1.5-metre wide shoulders.
At the start, the mountainous terrain, which included many narrow cuts and fills, required equipment that could be easily transported from one area to another using highway lowbed tractor-trailers. In august 2005, two months after kiewit was awarded the contract, crews broke ground. Two years later, the project is 50% complete. crews are working alongside the 13,700 vehicles per day travelling from Horseshoe Bay to squamish, and 7,700 from squamish to Whistler. More than 800 people are on the project, which must be complete by fall 2009, less than six months before Vancouver hosts 5,500 athletes and officials; 1,350 paralympic athletes and officials; 10,000 media representatives; 25,000 volunteers and untold numbers of tourists and spectators.
With a looming deadline and challenging mountainous terrain, some technical in-novation was needed. among the project’s most useful tools are three modified cat 330s, informally called hoe-drills, excavators equipped with hydraulic rock drills for rock excavation.
These hoe-drill systems allow operators to reach different locations with an excavator to drill holes in highly challenging terrain. The machine is the pioneer, the first assault on the rock; used for first rock cuts, installing rock bolts and anchors. conventional hydraulic rock drills are used for the production drilling and pre-split work once the underlying platform is level.
“It’s a safer tool,” Wallace says. “It allows us to go on the edges of cliffs without endangering our craft workers. We use it on very rough, hilly terrain. the elevation of the ground increases as we go. In terms of heights, some rock cuts are approaching 70 metres.”
Traxxon Rock Drills Ltd. of Burnaby customized Keiwit’s TR-EX 2000 drill,
which can drill up to 80 feet (25 metres)
Built for kiewit by the technical wizards at Traxxon Rock Drills Ltd. in Burnaby, the TR-EX 2000 high performance rock drill attachment has the advantages of flexibility and extended reach. traxxon operations manager shaun Norman says the transformation process was simple: remove the excavator’s bucket, add drill attachments and an air compressor mounted where the tool box normally goes, to be driven by the excavator’s hydraulics. the compressor provides air to clear the cuttings out of the drill hole. Then install an electronic control box in the cab of the excavator.
“The kiewit machine is a little different,” says Norman. “It’s custom designed to handle 20-foot drill steel. Normal production units handle 14. The operator in the cab can control all the functions of the drill attachment. It’s perfect for drilling and blasting.”
The TR-EX 2000 is designed to drill holes between two and four and a half inches (about five to 12 centimetres) in diameter with a standard drill head and it can drill to a depth of 80 feet (about 25 metres). It uncouples very quickly; an operator can drill, excavate, and go back to drilling again in about a half an hour. The versatility of cat’s machines, which are designed to accommodate change, helped make the transformation possible, according to Norman.
“When cat builds an excavator, they give it lots of excess hydraulic capacity,” says Norman. “the majority of the new ones have built-in diverter valves or an extra hydraulic spool so you can attach pieces to it. It helps operators a lot.”
With a fleet of construction equipment that has a replacement value of more than $1.2 billion, kiewit is one of the biggest users of cat iron in the world. There are two dozen 30- to 40-tonne articulated rock trucks, about 12 large backhoes, cat 330s, 345s, 365s, and 385s and about 15 smaller hoes, a dozen dozers, d3s to d9s, about 20 trucks with the pup trailers for hauling crushed materials out, 12 hydraulic rocks drills and three hoe drill attachments mounted on cat 330s. the list goes on, says david Wallace.
There are also environmental concerns; air quality, trees, fish-bearing waterways, endangered species and sediment must be protected. In some places, construction is taking place next to streams where salmon spawn. Wallace says Kiewit has worked hard to achieve a project material balance between cuts and fills, and the plan is to use most of the materials in the highway upgrade. Excavated materials are used for embankments backfill, processed sub-base and base material beneath the two layers of asphalt, for concrete aggregates, and finally for landscaping.
“Finning has been very responsive to our needs here,” he says. “Obviously, it’s a very challenging project in terms of its physical nature, compounded by the need to keep traffic moving through the job site. caught between the ocean and the mountains, we’re trying to finesse a road into the mountainside and not blow up the whole mountain.”
The result is that motorists will be safer as they enjoy the spectacular B.C. scenery.
Reprinted with permission.