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November 29, 2010

Work finished on Trans-Canada Highway resurfacing in Manitoba

WINNIPEG

All four lanes of a 22 kilometre stretch of the Trans-Canada Highway in Manitoba were recently reopened as work was completed on a comprehensive resurfacing project.

The portion of highway, from Deacon’s Corner east of Winnipeg to the Highway 12 overpass at St. Anne, funnels traffic from Ontario and commuters from the south-eastern part of the province into Winnipeg.

CHRISTOPHER FRIESEN

Crews continue to work on safety upgrades to a 22 km section of the Trans-Canada highway that recently reopened after being resurfaced.”

Travel was down to two lanes during the past two summers, as crews worked to resurface the eastbound and westbound lanes in this $60 million dollar project, jointly funded by the federal and provincial governments.

In 2009, the eastbound lanes were removed and resurfaced with concrete.

This past summer, the westbound lanes along the same stretch were resurfaced with asphalt.

In the process, some older poured concrete culverts were removed and replaced with pre-cast culverts to improve drainage. Transitions onto rural roads were also upgraded and, in some cases, removed.

Ron Weatherburn is the executive director of construction and maintenance with Manitoba Infrastructure and Transportation.

He said that many factors went into determining what materials would be used for this stretch of road.

“Some of the things that are factors are the design life we are looking for,” he said.

“Concrete generally has a longer design life than asphalt does.”

Weatherburn said soil conditions, constructability and contractor availability all get evaluated, when deciding which material will be used and that, for Manitoba, that usually means asphalt.

“Asphalt is much, much more common for our department,” he said. “For the most part, we normally only use concrete in the Red River Valley (south of Winnipeg) because of the soil conditions. As well as this is where the concrete plants are.”

It may not be the only Manitoba highway to be surfaced with concrete, but Weatherburn said it is the most recent example.

He also said that resurfacing this eastern section of the Trans-Canada Highway with concrete offers his department a unique academic opportunity.

“It gives us a very good comparative test on how concrete compares to asphalt and how the price of concrete compares to asphalt for basically the same road,” he said.

Manitoba Infrastructure and Transportation had originally budgeted $63 million for this project, but came in under budget with a combined total cost of about $61 million.

The cost for the concrete lanes, Weatherburn said, was about $40 million.

While the asphalt lanes cost just more than $20 million.

However, he cautioned that while concrete does have a higher up-front cost, it isn’t double the cost as these numbers would suggest.

“It’s not completely comparable because we did a little more work last year, with some of the other transitions, that we didn’t have to do this year,” he said.

According to Manitoba Infrastructure numbers, 400,000 tonnes of aggregate and about 180,000 square meters of concrete were used in the eastbound lanes.

The westbound lanes required 580,000 tonnes of aggregate and 130,000 tonnes of asphalt.

Weatherburn said each material has advantages and disadvantages for road resurfacing.

Concrete lasts longer, but is more costly to repair, while asphalt is easier to maintain.

“It’s a fairly easy thing to mill off the very tip of it and put another asphalt layer on,” he said.

“Concrete, although it lasts a lot longer, once you need to go and re-do it, you normally can’t just put on an asphalt layer. You can’t mill it, so then you need to either fully reconstruct the lanes, if they are in that bad condition, or do major rehab work.”

Work on the project was carried out by two companies with the bulk of the resurfacing being handled by Mulder Construction and Materials Ltd.

Nelson River Construction Inc. handled the first 11 kilometres of construction along the eastbound lanes with Mulder winning the tenders to resurface the remaining 11 kilometres of concrete and the entire westbound lane with asphalt.

Weatherburn said that the sheer size of the concrete repaving job led to it being split into two separate tenders and that co-operation between the construction companies was necessary.

“We asked the contractors to work together to ensure that there was a proper transition,” he said.

Weatherburn added it will be 20 or 30 years before his department has a full understanding of how these concrete and asphalt surfaces compare.

Until then, motorists can enjoy a smoother, safer ride - in both directions – on this stretch of Manitoba highway.

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