The City of Winnipeg has recently awarded a $44.7 million construction contract, for the underpass at Waverley Street and Taylor Avenue in the city's south end, to Maple Leaf Construction of Winnipeg.
The contract is for the second, and main, phase of the Waverley Underpass Project (WUP).
Phase 2 follows preliminary underground drainage work on the project. The contract for Phase 1, which is wrapping up now, was awarded in January 2017.
"Phase 2 construction has begun, with work starting on the detour roadway, 130 metres to the west of Waverley," said Cameron Ward, WUP project manager in Winnipeg Public Works. "The detour will be completed in the fall of 2017."
WUP will replace the existing at-grade railway crossing of the CNR main rail line at Waverley and Taylor with an underpass.
In addition to the temporary traffic detour roadway and the underpass bridge structure, WUP will also entail some road improvements in the area.
These improvements will include reconstructing and rehabilitating Waverley, parts of which will need to be lowered to go under the underpass, as well as land drainage work and the installation of a new pump station.
Taylor Avenue, between Waverley and Lindsay, will also be expanded to four lanes.
"Construction is expected to be mostly complete by October 2019," said Ward. "Some minor work, such as landscaping, will continue into 2020."
Total project cost is approximately $155 million of which $125 million is for "hard construction."
According to the City, the $155 million figure is a Class 3 estimate, or accurate within +30 per cent and -20 per cent of the final construction cost. Estimated costs will be refined to a higher level of detail as part of the detailed design process.
Dillon Consulting Ltd of Winnipeg did the detailed design and is in charge of contract administration.
WUP is intended to improve traffic flow in the Waverley-Taylor area of southwest Winnipeg and to enhance safety, mobility and capacity in the area.
Ward says the underpass is needed because of rapid growth in the region and increasing traffic congestion due to the many trains that use the tracks every day.
The level crossing is crossed by approximately 30,000 vehicles and 40 trains every day.
"Upgrading the Waverley crossing has become a priority in recent years," Ward said.
Waverly is a major north-south commuter route that connects downtown Winnipeg with the growing southern suburbs.
"It's one of the busiest level crossings in the country," said Ward. "The passing trains can have a major impact on the traffic flow."
According to the results of the City's transportation study and traffic modeling, traffic as a whole at Waverley and Taylor may increase, due to overall growth in the southwest quadrant of the city.
However, it says traffic is expected to flow better due to the elimination of the congestion caused by trains, resulting in an improvement to traffic in the area overall.
Waverley-Taylor is one of three major crossings of the CNR mainline in southern Winnipeg.
The two other crossings, at Pembina Highway and Kenaston Boulevard, are separated at-grade and are operating at full capacity.
Although an overpass was considered early in the WUP design process, that approach was rejected.
An overpass was determined to be unfeasible because of such engineering constraints as heights, clearance requirements and property impacts. According to the City, any environmental impacts of the project will be minimal.
Soil sampling in the area of the underpass indicated "no issues of concern." The project also involves reconstruction of the existing CNR rail bed and replacement of the rail tracks in the area of the overpass with seamless rail, "which may decrease vibration and noise from rail activities."
Project challenges are few in number, but serious in possible consequence. One is the large scale of the project. Another is the need to maintain the flow of four lanes of traffic.
And a third is working within the constraints of the many utility lines in the area — gas, electricity, sewer and water and communications.