Sudbury's Maley Drive extension is well on its way to being completed on time and possibly under budget, with figures showing it will mean millions in savings for the city, residents and companies in time, fuel, and wear and tear on other city roadways.
Phase one is currently underway, spanning from the corner of Lasalle Boulevard West across to Falconbridge Road, which includes extending Maley Drive, a roundabout in front of Collège Boréal, an interchange on Notre Dame and another roundabout on Barry Downe.
The cost of this phase is estimated to be around $80 million and will be open by December.
"It's a multi-million-dollar project, but one that will save many millions more, by making commuting faster and safer, and give commercial trucks a very efficient line of travel,” said David Shelsted, director of infrastructure capital planning services, growth and infrastructure for the City of Greater Sudbury.
“For the commercial drivers, time truly is money. This extension will mean they can make their deliveries without having to navigate city streets to get to the other side. Commuters also will save time and fuel in their traffic commutes to their jobs and daily lives.”
It will also mean less wear and tear on city streets with fewer vehicles on them.
“This will be purely a highway for transporting vehicles," he said. "It won't turn into a Kingsway with buildings, driveways and additional traffic clogging it up.”
Phase two will include another extension from Elm Street West to the Maley Drive extension, as well as four-laning Maley Drive between Barry Downe and Falconbridge Road, and as four-laning from Collège Boréal to Elm Street West.
The cost of phase two is estimated to be $70 million and open to traffic by the fall of 2019.
A cost benefit analysis conducted by the city in October of 2015 showed the extension would have a net economic value of $135 million to 2048.
It looked at the savings on many fronts, including fuel, time spent in traffic, wear and tear on roads, vehicle maintenance and greenhouse gas emissions.
The project will alleviate traffic congestion and save about 457,000 vehicle hours per year for auto drivers and 50,800 vehicle hours for commercial truck drivers. In dollars, that's $11.1 million annually.
Private vehicle drivers will save an estimated $1.15 million per year while truck drivers will save an estimated $360,500 in operating costs.
Greenhouse gas emissions will also be reduced as it will mean less fuel being consumed. It is estimated there will be 2,458 metric tons of carbon dioxide saved, which translates to $218,000 per year.
There is also a comfort level being considered for all users of city streets. As an example, Shelsted pointed out that, for users like cyclists, this will mean fewer trucks rumbling down Lasalle Boulevard, meaning less stress and risk with having to share the road with large vehicles.
The hope, he said, is to get more commercial trucks off that road so it can be repurposed for more commuter traffic and people travelling to businesses on the road.
Total operating costs are estimated to be around $170,000 annually, consisting of winter maintenance.
Phase two, once completed, will be a boon for mine trucks. Shelsted said it would be an efficient route for ore transports to go from sites like Nickel Rim to the smelter in Copper Cliff without having to go through the city.
The roundabouts, a relatively new addition to the city's streets, are being built with truck efficiency in mind.
“With roundabouts, they don't technically stop. So it's more efficient for the businesses,” Shelsted said.
“So when bigger companies like Glencore and Vale are looking around the world to invest in projects, we are hoping Sudbury becomes more attractive because we are making these investments in our community.”
One common route for ore and slurry trucks is to go from Nickel Rim, to Levack, then to the smelter in Falconbridge. Depending on time and traffic, sometimes they go through Valley East, while at other times they go along Lasalle Boulevard.
With the extension, trucks are expected to stay on Maley Drive, because it is the shortest and fastest route.
Being under budget is an accomplishment for a project of this size, Shelsted said, but that is being tempered with knowing there are still many variables ahead. Being in the black means the city has cash in reserve in case unexpected circumstances come up.
“With a project this big, it's almost inevitable; there are risks we have to manage,” he said.
“We have utilities to move, environmental approvals we are still going through, unforeseen circumstances in terms of the quality of the sub-grade, and quantity overruns in case we have to use extra material.”
Some variables include the fracturing of bedrock, land purchases, erosion and flooding hazards, as well as structural issues from building across marshland.
Maley Drive as it exists has been a literal and figurative pain for drivers for years, something Shelsted says the city is well aware of and has been working on in small parts for the last two years. A contract bid to repair water and storm sewer infrastructure and repave the existing road went out in August to pre-selected companies and will close later in the year.
“We know Maley Drive is at the end of its working life, but we've been preparing for the eventual repair and extension for a while and we thank residents for their patience,” he said.
“We've been repairing the train intersection, working with CP to smooth out the crossing, before the rest of the work can begin.”
Work on that section includes eventual four-laning, which has begun next to the existing road with a bed set down and brushing.
The road's design makes it easier. The highway was built with road allowances on either side.
“The road was built back then with extending and widening it in mind, which is a big help for us when planning and building,” Shelsted said. “Timberwolf Golf Club has their green setback made for this occasion, and the Richelieu Court subdivision already has noise-dampening berms for when there is higher traffic.”
Blasting continues at the Lasalle section in front of Collège Boréal.
As of the end of July, Shelsted said more than a million tonnes of rock had been blasted out.