Canadian Consulting Engineer

Award of Excellence Port Mann Highway 1 Improvements – Onshore Works

October 1, 2014
By Hatch Mott MacDonald and MMM Group (H5M)

The Port Mann/Highway 1 Improvement Project’s onshore works improved 37 kilometres of Trans-Canada Highway 1 between Vancouver and Langley, B.C.

The Port Mann/Highway 1 Improvement Project’s onshore works improved 37 kilometres of Trans-Canada Highway 1 between Vancouver and Langley, B.C.

Totalling $1.6 billion in construction costs, the project created an efficient transportation network for people and trade. Over 125,000 vehicles use the highway to travel within Metro Vancouver or to cross the Fraser River each day.

Hatch Mott MacDonald and MMM Group joined forces as the H5M joint venture to manage the entire design delivery of the onshore works (everything but the new Port Mann Bridge).

The project is the largest transportation construction project in B.C.’s history. Delivered by a design-build method and valued at $1.6 billion, it involved widening the highway, adding 45 new structures and upgrading 14 interchanges.

The H5M team led 13 other consultant firms to complete the designs and provide engineering services during construction.

The team managed and produced 12,000 “issued for construction” drawings in three years. At its peak, the design team boasted 250 team members. They logged in more than 1.1 million person hours of work.

A complex, urban environment

The final configuration of the onshore works was a masterwork of engineering design, completed through a complex, urban environment. The project traversed road network links and municipal crossings, as well as multiple railway and public transit lines. The corridor ran parallel to, and regularly intersected, every utility: electrical, lighting, fibre optic, gas, oil, drainage, and municipal services. H5M reached out to third-party utility stakeholders to develop more than 100 utility relocation and protection designs.

The corridor had variable ground conditions that required over 200 preloads and surcharges (needing over 500,000 m3 of fill) and 25 lightweight expanded polystyrene embankments.

Seismic analysis

The province mandated an onerous, performance-based design approach for the seismic analyses of all bridges, walls and embankments. Much of the performance-based design philosophy that was developed during the project is under review for inclusion in the next version of the Canadian Highway Bridge Design Code.

H5M developed analytical models for bridges, walls and embankments that simulated earthquakes with four different return period events, as well as a subduction event unique to B.C.’s coast.

Intelligent transportation systems were deployed widely across the highway and the H5M team also managed

the installation of a new, automated lane control system for the Cassiar Tunnel’s expansion.

Environmental enhancements and vehicle emission savings

Sensitivity to the region’s unique habitats and ongoing environmental stewardship were core values in the project. The environmental design improved fisheries habitats with compensation areas and wetlands, and provided nearly 200,000 m2 of aquatic habitat and 512,000 m2 of riparian habitat. Thanks to the designs, salmon returned to spawn in Still Creek for the first time in 80 years.

Wildlife crossings and habitats were enhanced, sensitive species were protected, invasive plant life was removed, and diverse native plants were reintroduced.

Highway 1 between Vancouver and Langley was Metro Vancouver’s most congested corridor. The improvements reduced traffic idling and travel time by up to 50 per cent. The work began in 2008 and road tolls were in place by December 2012. cce

Project name:

Port Mann/Highway 1 Improvement Project – Onshore Works, Vancouver-Langley, B.C.

Award-winning firms (project management, detailed design, construction support):

Hatch Mott MacDonald (Tony Purdon, P.Eng., Chris Mealing, P.Eng., Aled Griffiths, C.Eng.) and MMM Group (Keith Holmes, P.Eng., Janet Branch)


Transportation Investment


Kiewit/Flatiron General Partnership

Other key players:

Brybil Projects
(structural, civil); TetraTech/EBA
(pavement, geotechnical); PBX/FLIR
(electrical, ITS); Hatfield (environmental); McElhanney (civil); Thurber (geotechnical); Urban Systems (civil); MEG (geotechnical); BKL (sound walls), InterCAD (civil), ISL (civil), Levelton (materials), Sharp & Diamond (landscape).


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