Kicking Horse crews hustle terrain to widen east lane as part of $601 million upgrade

The final phase of the 4.8-kilometre Kicking Horse Canyon Trans-Canada Highway upgrade, currently underway, will see construction crews build another lane this year to accommodate traffic on a project moving through some of the toughest terrain. British Columbia’s most rugged.

When complete, approximately two kilometers of the new section of highway will be on elevated structures due to steep terrain and avalanche risk.

“The work that is happening this year is the construction of the eastbound lane which will allow traffic to flow while the west side lane is being built,” said Acting Associate Project Director Kathryn Lawrence, RPF., with the Transportation Infrastructure Corporation, which is delivering the $601 million Phase 4 upgrade for the Government of British Columbia.

“The section has some of the toughest terrain in the province with incredible steep terrain and complex bedrock layers,” Lawrence said, which is why he was left to last. Completion completes the transformation of 26 kilometers of 1950s two-lane freeway into a modern 100-kilometre four-lane highway with two cycle lanes. All four phases take place near the town of Golden on Highway 1, a busy southeastern British Columbia route for commercial supply vehicles traveling to Calgary, Alberta.

The highway section is also the most expensive, with the budgeted $601 million – a cost that is more than double the cumulative cost of the three completed phases ($143 million for phase 1, $66 million for phase 2 and $53 million for phase 3). The final stretch is between two completed parts of Phase 3 of the freeway upgrade (from Golden Hill to the West Portal) and Phase 1, the Yoho Bridge upgrade. The $601 million in funding is shared, with the federal government providing $215 million and the BC government providing the remaining $386 million.

While other phases defied engineering with construction innovations as seen in builder Flatiron’s Park Bridge, the carving of a modern highway from this rugged mountainous terrain is considered a marvel of construction. engineering and construction. A total of 18 bridges, walls and overpasses are to be built with 600 piles driven to support the structures and remove 13 curves and realign the Trans-Canada Highway, Lawrence said.

In April 2017, at the time of the Phase 4 call for proposals, Golden Mayor Ron Oszust told the Journal of Commerce that the two-lane highway was just a ledge in the Canyon wall. following the Kicking Horse River. “It’s narrow and narrow and the rock is not stable,” he said, adding that it would be different if the rock was granite and not friable. Murray Tekano, director of major capital expenditures at the British Columbia Ministry of Transportation at the time called the project, projected a cost of $450 million in 2017, ‘the most expensive highway construction per kilometer made. in British Columbia”.

Lawrence said crews moving to upgrade the highway face many challenges. “Building these bridges, walls and viaducts over the steep and unstable terrain requires an innovative approach to design and construction. An extensive network of temporary access trails, trestle platforms and rope access is required to even begin building the project,” Lawrence said. Specialized spider diggers are used on steep slopes, while large teams of rock access technicians are needed to install rock attenuators and construction-essential walkways.

Approximately 800,000 cubic meters of material will be excavated and blasted during construction, which equates to approximately 60,000 material loads over the life of the project. In addition to working in a restricted area with traffic, construction crews must protect themselves against falling rocks. “Much of the work is done over the CP Rail continent,” Lawrence said.

Construction work on the Phase 4 upgrade began in the spring of 2021 by Kicking Horse Canyon Builders (KHCC) under a design-build contract. KHCC is a joint venture made up of main partner Aecon (50%), the American company Parsons Corporation (30%) and Emil Anderson Construction (20%). Parsons is a digital solutions provider focused on defence, intelligence and critical infrastructure. Lawrence said while the three are collaborating, Parson is providing the design work which will also include a median separating the traffic lanes.

Under the design-build agreement, the builder is required to consider adaptation to climate change in the design under the technical circular published by the province in 2019 entitled “Adaptation to the impacts of climate change and extreme weather conditions”.

“This document addresses design requirements for climate change and is a requirement for this project,” Lawrence said.

In October 2021, the teams took a first step with the installation of the first concrete beams to support the Sheep Bridge deck. Lawrence said the other major bridges that will need to be built to accommodate the widening of the freeway are the Big Horn, Frenchmen and Blackwall bridges.

Work is on schedule to meet a winter 2023-24 completion date, Lawrence said. BC Infrastructure Benefits provides employment and training opportunities for the project. BCIB Director of Stakeholder Relations and Project Development Greg Johnson said the project will employ 220 people over three years: 21 workers or 10% identify as Indigenous, 29 workers or 13% are women , and 114 workers or 52% of the workforce come from communities within 100 kilometers of the project site.

“On the KHCP4 project, 15% of the workforce, or 32 workers, have been apprentices,” he said.

BC Ministry of Transportation – Map of the four phases of the Kicking Horse Canyon project, with the final section to be completed in the winter of 2023-2024.

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