Canadian Consulting Engineer

New Brunswick toll road under way

January 1, 1999
By Canadian Consulting Engineer

A new highway in New Brunswick costing $584.4 million is to be completed in four years. The 195-kilometre road between Fredericton and Moncton is a four-lane divided road, replacing the two-lane Trans...

A new highway in New Brunswick costing $584.4 million is to be completed in four years. The 195-kilometre road between Fredericton and Moncton is a four-lane divided road, replacing the two-lane Trans-Canada highway built in the 1950s. Sixty-five people have died on the old road since 1991. Its replacement is to be financed by tolls–much to the chagrin of some locals who objected earlier this year because it absorbs a section of existing road that they used to travel for free. Tolls will be collected using a mixed manual and electronic system, and the highway will be privately operated and maintained.

Construction began last spring and the road is due to open to traffic by November 2001. It will include four toll plazas, six sensor units for monitoring pavement conditions, and 48 structures (20 interchanges and 28 overpasses). The route begins at Longs Creek near Fredericton, crosses the St. John’s River near Coytown, travels south of Grand Lake and across the Canaan River. It joins the Saint-John-Sussex highway near Salisbury and continues to Route 2 at Moncton’s famous Magnetic Hill.

A consortium known as Maritime Road Development Corporation (MRDC) won the lucrative design-build contract with a bid that was $170 million lower than its two competitors. (For comparison, the six-lane, 69 kilometre toll Highway 407 near Toronto was built for $929.8 million, also in four years. It has 135 structures.)

Chief players in the Maritime Road Development Corporation consortium are Miller Paving of Ontario, Dragados FCC Internacional of Spain, and Janin/GTMI (Canada) of Quebec. Also involved in the consortium are consulting engineers Marshall Macklin Monaghan and McCormick Rankin of the Toronto area, and several New Brunswick firms. Boissonnault McGraw and Associates of Campbellton, for example, are designing a 24-kilometre stretch west of Canaan River that includes one interchange, a toll plaza and cross roads. Other sections are being designed by Crandall Engineering, Ernest A Hachey & Associates and the SGE Group Inc, all of Moncton. Roy Consultants Group of Bathurst is designing 13 overpasses, underpasses and other structures. FGA Consultants and Geoplan Consultants of Fredericton are doing civil design work for the Section 12 main toll plaza.


Fixed price is key to design-build

I found the October-November issue of Canadian Consulting Engineer interesting, informative and provocative.

The article by Terry Hardy, P.Eng., “Debunking the Myths of Design-Build,” was particularly well written and provides much food for thought about the rationale behind the recent trend “back” to design-build. And while I do not agree with some of the author’s views, I applaud him on presenting them for discussion in such a thoughtful way. Canadian Consulting Engineer can play a valuable role by acting as a forum for discussion on issues such as this.

The Association of Consulting Engineers of Canada (ACEC) has been expending a significant amount of effort recently on design-build and the appropriate role of consulting engineers in the process. ACEC’s basic philosophical approach may assist in alleviating some of Mr. Hardy’s concerns. [See ACEC Review in this magazine, December 1998, page 21.]

I believe that there is an element of truth in each of the notions which Mr. Hardy debunks. At the same time, I agree with him that, properly carried out, the design-bid-build process can also address each of these “myths.”

The essential issue, and the question which consulting engineers need to address is, “Why can the design-build process sometimes result in projects that are less costly, faster, more innovative and more claim-free?”

The answer, in my view, is simply the financial accountability and transfer of decision-making control that occurs the minute the owner and the design-builder sign the agreement which puts the design-builder on the hook to produce the completed project for a fixed lump-sum amount. Once that has occurred, all project decisions are carried out on a sound financial basis rather than on the “nice-to-have” basis which often governs the design process.

The return to design-build as a preferred project delivery system is nothing more than an expression by owners of their desire to be able to control the costs of their projects.

Barry Lester, P.Eng.

Vice-president and COO

Stantec Consulting Ltd., Calgary


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