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Sea-to-Sky Highway

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The Greater Vancouver area, located on the south coast of British Columbia, Canada, is known for its proximity to both the ocean and the mountains. The Sea-to-Sky Highway bridges those two worlds. From West Vancouver's Horseshoe Bay through to Whistler and on to Pemberton.

The Sea-to-Sky is a portion of Highway 99 set upon a steep cliff overlooking Howe Sound and consists of a two undivided lanes with no outside barrier. With the announcement of the upcoming winter Olympics taking place in Vancouver in 2010, and Whistler being a keystone to those events, the B.C. provincial government authorized the upgrading of the Sea-to-Sky. Currently reconstruction and development is being undertaken to ensure the highway can provide a safer, faster drive for commuters.

A portion of the project was finished in 2005, introducing a four-lane highway between Ansell Place and Lions Bay. The entire project is scheduled for completion by 2009. The development has been met with some protest from locals and environmental groups.

[edit] Construction History

The Sea-to-Sky Highway improvement project has been contracted out to the S2S Transportation Group, which consists of both B.C. and internationally based companies.

According to the B.C. Ministry of Transportation, the S2S Transportation Group has the "experience, skills, expertise and creativity necessary to improve the safety, reliability and capacity of the highway on time and on budget."

The project manager of the S2S group is the Macquarie Group. B.C. companies involved include Peter Kiewit Sons Co., JJM Construction, Hatch Mott MacDonald (HMM), ND Lea, McElhanney Engineering Services Ltd., Capilano Highway Services.

The $600 million development promises a straighter highway with improved sightlines, wider shoulders to accommodate both bicycles and disabled vehicles, stronger bridges to withstand possible damage from debris or high water level, 6,000 new jobs and a $300 million increase in the GDP by 2025. The project is making use of over 350 different types of equipment, including $40 million worth of new equipment. The Kiewit Sons Co. list different types of Caterpillar dozers, graders, excavators, and rigid frame haulers, John Deere backhoe loaders and excavators as well as a Dynapac compactor and Kenworth trucks.

When the project was still in its planning stage the S2S Transportation Group believed they would have to spend a considerable amount of effort digging into the mountains to widen the highway. However, it was discovered they could build outwards instead of inward. "When this job was originally envisaged, it was going to be a large rock job—mostly cut and fill, so you had fairly large rock cuts and a lot of road closures," Peter Milburn, Project Director for the B.C. Ministry of Transportation, explained. "As the work has evolved—particularly in the first section that we did, a 0.6-mile (1-km) piece, we involved the use of MSE (mechanically stabilized earth) retaining walls, cantilever structures and half-bridges to move the road essentially out towards Howe Sound rather than moving it in to the mountain. There's still some rock cutting, but only a small amount compared to what had originally been estimated."

The retaining walls are being built with Caterpillar excavators and Tamrock hydraulic drills. These two pieces of machinery simplify a job that was quite dangerous for a worker in the past. Previously a worker was required to dangle from ropes to do the work, but now the excavator can reach over the edge and drill into the cliff for anchor points.

Since the Sea-to-Sky project requires the use of heavy industrial machinery the S2S Transportation Group developed a Noise Monitoring and Mitigation Plan. In order for the construction to stay on schedule work is required to continue through the nighttime hours. This plan lays out specific measures that must be followed to ensure as little impact on the surrounding neighbourhoods as possible.

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