The TransCanada Highway, also known as Highway 1, connects Vancouver to the rest of Canada by way of the Port Mann Bridge, which crosses the Fraser River. In December 2012, as part of British Columbia’s Gateway Program to address growing regional congestion by improving the movement of people, goods, and transit throughout Greater Vancouver, a new 10-lane Port Mann Bridge opened for business.
More than 1.2 miles (2 kilometers) long, it is the second-longest cable-stayed bridge in the Western Hemisphere and the 29th longest in the world. The new bridge deservedly received a lot of media attention — but a new and better Port Mann Bridge was only one of the elements required to meet the Gateway Program’s goals.
The $2.5 billion Port Mann/Highway 1 Improvement Project also involved highway widening and major infrastructure improvements along a 23-mile (37-kilometer) corridor. The project included building or rehabilitating interchanges and onshore bridges, and totally rebuilding the complex Cape Horn/Lougheed Highway Interchange. In addition, the project included the construction of the new Fraser Heights Connector to join Highway 1 with the Golden Ears Crossing and the new South Fraser Perimeter Road.
HMM, a joint venture of Mott MacDonald and Hatch, was chosen as the senior partner for the design of all the onshore works, valued at $1.6 billion. The joint venture was part of a larger consortium called H5M, encompassing a team of 12 engineering firms. We had overall responsibility for the design effort and managed a broad multidisciplinary team of consultants and specialists. (See our video at 8:09.)
HMM was responsible for the detailed design and construction oversight of the highway and onshore structures, which comprised the following key components:
- 23 miles (37 kilometers) of highway widening
- Reconstruction of 13 existing interchanges
- 42 onshore bridges, including rehabilitation of 8 bridges
- 21 “named” lightweight-fill embankments
- Addition of two new interchanges
- Rapid Bus Capacity
- Dedicated cycling facilities
- Environmental measures including improvements to fish and wildlife habitats and specially designed culverts under roadways
Traditional highway sections were inadequate to coordinate the interaction of the new widened highway with adjacent infrastructure. To handle this challenge, we used our expertise in Building Information Modeling (BIM).
Our BIM model incorporated extensive data from surveys and laser scans of existing infrastructure. This made it easier to see how new structures would integrate with old ones, and to protect key assets while relocation and construction were going on. BIM made it possible to virtually “drive” along the highway and to review the design with the owner’s representatives.
BIM also aided in the design of ground improvements that were needed to consolidate soft, weak soils so they could bear the load of new highway structures. The 3D model’s built-in intelligence regarding surfaces, structures, volumes, and materials made it possible to design temporary works and to plan cut-and-fill operations directly from the model. This improved the efficiency of planning and design, and allowed the contractor to provide coordinates for earth-moving equipment.
The Port Mann/Highway 1 Improvement Project improves traffic flow along a number of major routes in the Lower Mainland, and improves safety by reducing the weaving of traffic and accommodating commercial vehicles with specially designed ramps.
Travel time has been reduced by up to 30%, saving some drivers as much as an hour per day. A new RapidBus service connects Coquitlam/Burnaby with Langley in about 25 minutes. The project also includes new multi-use paths for cyclists and pedestrians, and HOV lanes along the majority of the project corridor’s length.
In January 2014, the British Columbia Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure announced that H5M had won the Deputy Minister’s Consulting Engineers Award for Excellence in Design and Contract Preparation, in the category of Roads.
The ministry noted, “The Port Mann/Highway 1 Improvement Project was the largest and one of the most complex projects in B.C.’s history. The design build for the Cape Horn Interchange included constructing 13 separate structures (overpasses and underpasses), while maintaining traffic on all roadways and ramps during construction.”
In April 2014, H5M received the Lieutenant General's Award of Excellence, the premier award of the Association of Consulting Engineering Companies, British Columbia. The project also received ACEC-BC's Award of Excellence in the Transportation & Bridges Division.
"H5M’s contributions were instrumental to the Port Mann/Highway 1 Improvement Project, one of the most important transportation projects our province has seen in years,” said Keith Sashaw, president and CEO of ACEC-BC. “The team implemented a number of technical ‘firsts’ for a project of this magnitude, such as developing the majority of the highway design using 3D modelling and Building Information Management methodologies.”