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Maley Drive extension on time and on budget

Massive Sudbury road construction project on target for 2019 opening

It's barely one year into the construction of Sudbury's Maley Drive extension and phase one is on time and on budget.

City representatives gave members of the media a tour of phases one and two of the massive construction project in the north end of the city on Nov. 21, which extends from the intersection of Frood Road and Lasalle Boulevard to the intersection of Barry Downe Road and Maley Drive.

Phase one is currently underway, with a four-lane divided highway spanning from the corner of Lasalle Boulevard West across to Falconbridge Road. It includes extending Maley Drive, a roundabout in front of Collège Boréal, an interchange on Notre Dame, and another roundabout on Barry Downe. Reconstruction of the existing Maley Drive will also be part of the work, starting in the spring.

The cost of this phase is estimated to be around $80 million.

It is slated for completion in December, 2019.

David Shelsted, Sudbury's director of infrastructure capital planning services, growth and infrastructure, says it's a marvel to look at in person.

“I've been looking at maps and plans on paper since this began, but you don't get a full sense of the scale of it until you are driving along it. It's mind-boggling,” he said. “This is what $80 million in construction looks like.”

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 roads, as well as four-laning from Collège Boréal to Elm Street West.

The cost of phase two is estimated to be $70 million.

Much of the construction is invisible to traffic going by, as it is set far back from current roads. At first glance, it looks like the extension is a completely new road design that cuts through wilderness. The truth is, it has been on the books of the city for almost 20 years. Other construction projects like the offset on Timberwolf Golf Club and noise dampening berms in the Richelieu Court subdivision were built with the extension and four-laning in mind.

The savings in time and travel are already starting to show. Barry Tonello, site superintendent, said even driving just 20 kilometres an hour he can be at the Notre Dame overpass in around five minutes.

“Compare that to the 15 to 20 minutes people say it takes them right now to drive in traffic along Lasalle from Notre Dame to Falconbridge Road, on a good day,” he said.

Drivers on Maley will notice on the north side a very tall mound of rock. Tonello said that is to help the ground settle and compact over the next few months to create a stable base for the road and about two metres of it will be removed from the top when construction begins.

To build this extension requires a lot of blasting, which presented its own challenges. Shelsted said the composition is unique to the area, calling it harder and with different fracturing properties.

“It's totally different than what you see in places like Parry Sound,” he said. “We have to blast this rock with variables like freeze-thaw cycles, fracturing and erosion.”

Rock falls are an inevitability, so the rock cuts were placed further back for safety. Shelsted added that the larger the rock cut, the further back it must be from roadways.

One bonus about building the extension is the aggregate needed to make roadbeds is already there, in the rock being blasted out. Shelsted explained they have not had to haul in rock or any kind of granular material. There are rock crushers on site processing blasted rock into what they need. It's been used to make road bed, and in one place it's 15 metres high from the ground.

“The great thing about that is it has saved us a lot of money we would've needed to haul material in, fuel, man hours, and wear and tear on vehicles,” he said.

The most impressive site is a rock cut measuring 300 metres wide and 22 metres high. That rock cut alone has provided around 170,000 cubic metres for use in roadbeds.

In all, one million cubic metres of rock has been moved.

There are several engineering marvels under the roads as well. Phase one includes a 55-metre-long recreational tunnel measuring three metres high by five metres wide. Shelsted said it's big enough for a snowmobile trail groomer to fit in. Several culverts have also been installed to funnel the headwaters of Junction Creek under the city's infrastructure.

Along Barry Downe Road, a wildlife tunnel was installed to give species like snapping turtles a safe corridor to pass. The entire area runs along the southern border of the Maley Conservation Area and is known habitat for several species.

The extension includes the first roundabouts to be introduced to the city, with one at the intersection of Barry Downe Road and Maley Drive, and another in front of Collège Boréal. The roundabouts are being designed to cut down on travel time, maintain consistent traffic speed, and make it easier for people to turn. The city will be rolling out a series of educational videos to show the public how to navigate them.

The extension also required moving the section of Notre Dame Avenue that turns into Municipal Road 80 further east. Shelsted explained that section used to go over a hill. It was determined it would be more efficient and cost effective if they moved the road, rather than design the extension around the existing road.

Phases three and four are in the works, and will include plans for an overpass over the railway crossing on the east end of Maley Drive and four-laning, if the city receives funding.

Currently, construction on a drainage pipe under the railbed is being completed.