Canadian Consulting Engineer

Award of Excellence: Crowchild Trail Improvements

November 1, 2004
By Canadian Consulting Engineer

In 2000, the city of Calgary decided to extend its light rail transit (LRT) service from Brentwood Station to a new terminal on 53rd Street on Crowchild Trail, a major urban highway in the northwest region of the city.

In 2000, the city of Calgary decided to extend its light rail transit (LRT) service from Brentwood Station to a new terminal on 53rd Street on Crowchild Trail, a major urban highway in the northwest region of the city.

The extended LRT track had to be accommodated in the median of Crowchild Trail and the new LRT station had to open for service before the end of 2003. Three kilometres of the urban highway had to be widened from four lanes to six, and there were to be three new full-grade separated interchanges.

In order to achieve the short project schedule and assure cost-effectiveness, the city asked for design-build proposals with a guaranteed maximum price. This was the city’s first design-build project.The $60-million project was also technically challenging, involving the widening of one of the busiest urban highways in the city.

The winning proponents were Kiewit/Clifton ND Lea. Kiewit Management of Edmonton was the general design-build contractor, and Clifton ND Lea of Calgary was project manager, providing all engineering planning and design in the disciplines of civil, roads, structures, utilities and traffic management. Clifton Associates did the geotechnical and foundation engineering, pavement design and quality control. Calgary’s Transportation Project Office provided project administration on behalf of the city.

A major challenge was an extremely tight design and construction schedule that allowed only 17 months from the award of the contract to substantial completion. The design-build process meant the contractor needed to start construction before the overall design reached 60% completion. As project manager, Clifton ND Lea had to manage and coordinate a scope that spanned multiple design disciplines, everything from environmental management, to roadway geometric design, to traffic management, pavement design, landscape, street lighting, sound mitigation, quality control, storm water management and modeling, and structural design for bridges and retaining walls. They also had to meet the needs of three major clients: the city of Calgary, the Transportation Project Office and Kiewit Management. Each client had its own agenda, requirements, approval process and design standards.

Structures and schedules

The corridor improvement project was technically complex. Elements included:

Brisebois interchange, including five bridges;

Northlands interchange and structure

53rd Street interchange and structure

ramps and collector roads

extensive storm drainage, including a major underground detention structure

extensive retaining walls and sound mitigation fences

modification of an existing pedestrian bridge

accommodation of existing and new utilities

the LRT trackbed preparation to the new station

An all-inclusive environmental management plan was developed that not only prescribed procedures to ensure that the project conformed to environmental rules, but also offered recommendations for best management practices. Ongoing environmental awareness training for staff was given through presentations and one-on-one counselling. A monitor inspected site conditions three or four times a week to ensure any deficiencies were corrected and to document and report on all environmental issues.

The section of the Crowchild Trail was one of the more complex areas in Calgary for stormwater management. The entire area was subject to flooding under storm conditions, and traditionally Crowchild Trail was used for overland flows and stormwater retention. Hydrologists used the modelling programs DDSWMM200 and PCSWMM Extran to determine the amount of retention required. Previously all storage had been on the surface, but as part of the project, an underground cast-in-place concrete vault was constructed.

Design management

Successful design management involved:

Management committee. A clear and concise management plan was developed to establish roles and responsibilities; as part of the plan, a management committee was established to review and periodically refine the progress and direction of the design-build team.

Hands on design reviews. Clifton ND Lea introduced a proactive approach that allowed the contractor’s design coordinator and the design manager to review drawings and design as they were being completed, rather than waiting for actual drawing submissions. This method resulted in quicker reviews and approvals.

Value engineering. As a design-build project, the budget was set at the concept stage. Continuous value engineering throughout the project proved beneficial. The team met their objectives within an approved amended budget and the strict time frame.

Design quality management plan. This was a key component of the design, and was based on the principles of ISO 9001, adapted to an engineering design environment. The plan required the development of design briefs for all the design disciplines.

Design schedule. Due to the challenge of managing a design team located in different offices, the design schedule was a core component. It used a comprehensive project management method and a three-week “look ahead” scheduling technique. The design schedule was closely integrated with, and monitored against, the overall project schedule.

Traffic management was another challenge. The contract stipulated no disruptions, so the team developed a complex system of traffic detours for all three interchanges. Coordinating the detours with the need to relocate and protect existing utilities was another challenge. Utilities affected included sewers, water mains, power and communication lines, gas mains and LRT equipment.

The team succeeded in overcoming the many logistic and technical challenges of the project and completed the work on schedule by June 2003.


Project: Crowchild Trail Corridor Improvement

Award-winning firm: Clifton ND Lea Consulting, Calgary (Roger St. Louis, P.Eng., Jianping Jiang, P.Eng., Graham Wilkins, P.Eng., Julio Wong, P.Eng., Wayne Clifton, P.Eng., Dan Meidl, P.Eng., Mike Hatch, P.Eng., Richard Lane, P.Eng., Jan Kocaba, P.Eng., Rick Yoshida, P.Eng.)

Owner: City of Calgary

Client: Kiewit Management

Other key players: Lombard North (landscape), Julian Rozental, P.Eng. (traffic safety), Shaflik Engineering (electrical/lighting), Wakefield Acoustics (noise)


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