Canadian Consulting Engineer

AWARD OF EXCELLENCE / PROJECT MANAGEMENT Deh Cho Bridge

Juror Comments:  "The development and application of rigorous project management techniques resolved a failing project, revived it, and together with the input of the local community drew it to a successful conclusion. This approach,...

October 1, 2013   By Associated Engineering

Juror Comments:  “The development and application of rigorous project management techniques resolved a failing project, revived it, and together with the input of the local community drew it to a successful conclusion. This approach, together with the problems of carrying out operations in a remote area with difficult access, makes this an outstanding project
in its category.”

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Spanning over one kilometre across the Mackenzie River near Fort Providence, the new Deh Cho Bridge now connects northern residents with the rest of Canada and helps create economic development opportunities in the North.

For decades, Highway 3 stopped at the point where travellers crossed the MacKenzie River by ferry or ice bridge. This meant that for up to five weeks during periods of freezing or ice break-up, the residents of the Northwest Territories had no land connection with the rest of Canada. The only mode of transport for people or freight was expensive: by air.

In 2002, a public private partnership initiated design of the Deh Cho Bridge near Fort Providence. However, after continuing setbacks and delays, in 2010 the Government of the Northwest Territories assumed control of the project mid-construction. The government retained a new bridge engineer and contractor and appointed Associated Engineering to help deliver the project.

Construction underway:
design incomplete

When Associated Engineering stepped in as project manager, bridge construction had started, but the design was incomplete. The team faced immense public pressure, fueled by years of delays and cost escalation. Construction needed to proceed immediately, but the engineering consultant was still completing the design. Meanwhile, the quality of the constructed works needed to be confirmed, and the team needed to understand the project issues.

A project of this magnitude had never been built so far north in Canada. The team quickly mobilized to understand the government’s project goals, regulatory requirements, and the many issues that had delayed the original project. It was a remote site with extreme weather conditions; the project team was geographically dispersed; and there were issues related to the bridge fabrication and delivery, skilled labour, the availability of equipment, and quality control.

Associated Engineering developed a plan to address the above issues. As project manager, and working closely with the owner, they brought together the engineer, contractor, and fabricator to develop a design solution that could be quickly fabricated and delivered to the site. The project included highway, structural, and electrical design completion, hydrotechnical design, bridge fabrication and delivery, construction planning, document control, communications, environmental services, construction inspection, and quality management.

Communication with the team and the public was critical

Effective communication with the geographically dispersed project team, as well as regulators and the public, was critical. Regular meetings and partnering sessions were held, meetings were recorded, and a tailored, online document control system was developed to distribute all project documents instantaneously to team members.

Real-time web camera feeds kept the public informed of the project status, and quarterly newsletters were distributed by the government to each household in the Northwest Territories. Two scale models of the bridge were displayed in prominent locations, so the public could visualize the structure and understand its complexity.

The Deh Cho Bridge establishes a new, fixed northern connection that will help increase tourism to the Northwest Territories. Goods can now be easily transported, while the most significant economic benefit will likely be to the natural resources sector, which is a leading contributor to the region’s gross domestic product.

About 80 local residents worked on the project, receiving on-the-job training and building local capacity. cce

Project name:

Deh Cho Bridge,
Fort Providence, N.W.T.

Owner/client:

Government of Northwest
Territories, Dept. of Transportation

Award-winning / project manager,
controller and engineering consultant:

Associated Engineering, Burnaby,
B.C. (Leslie Mihalik, P.Eng.)

Other key players:

Levelton Consultants (project quality assurance), EBA/TetraTech (earthworks); Infinity Engineering/Sargent & Associates (bridge superstructure design); BPTEC DNW/TY LIN (Territorial advisors); Buckland & Taylor (erection engineering); Allnorth Consultants (construction quality control); Ruskin Construction (contractor).


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