How McElhanney and the Town of Canmore turned a lack of traffic into a project win

Given Canmore’s high levels of fast flowing groundwater, a large dewatering pond was required to divert groundwater from areas where water and sewer mains needed replacing.

While COVID-19 has disrupted infrastructure projects across the country and the world, our Canmore branch’s foresight and planning, combined with a reduction in traffic as a result of social distancing and non-essential travel, has allowed one project to realize new opportunities.

Survey crews were busy working on the Town of Canmore’s 2020 Transportation Improvement Projects when COVID-19 began making headlines. Recognizing that survey crews were critical in keeping the project on schedule, Canmore’s office staff and survey crews moved to remote working arrangements, no longer requiring them to report to the main office or interact with other crews.

As restrictions began applying to Canadians, our crews were safely onsite and soon discovered that initial project challenges were safely mitigated. With the project involving pipe replacements on major roads in Canmore, the Town’s transportation network would be significantly impacted. Prior to COVID-19, McElhanney had worried about traffic control issues causing project delays and was talking with local hotels and business associations to determine how to complete the project without impacting operations and guest experiences during the busy spring and summer tourist season. Between Banff and Canmore, the Bow Valley typically sees about four million visitors per year, making traffic management a huge budget item for the Town. However, with social distancing, restrictions on non-essential travel, and the temporary closing of provincial and national parks, traffic from locals and tourists was much lower than usual for most of the construction period.

As the second stage of the surfaceworks portion of the project entered construction tendering, given the impacts of COVID-19 on the economy, competitive contractor rates came in below the anticipated budget. Further, with funds initially allocated for traffic management now available to build additional infrastructure, the Town is planning to expand the project scope, providing additional opportunities for McElhanney. The Town’s incremental additions to our scope effectively doubled our services, providing more value for taxpayer dollars.

Once complete, the project will feature complete streets and fully protected intersections modeled after Dutch infrastructure with separated facilities for pedestrians, bikes, and cyclists. We believe this may be one of the first of its kind in Canada, and possibly outside of Europe.
This project illustrates how infrastructure projects can survive and thrive as a result of COVID-19. By accelerating future projects into the 2020-21 work timeframe, the Town can help stimulate the local economy while building large scale infrastructure projects at a time when traffic impacts will be reduced for locals, businesses, and visitors to Canmore.

Want to learn more? Contact Darin Langhorst

The project required the replacement of numerous pipes through major arterial roads in the Town.
Surveyors on-site practiced diligent social distancing and wore protective equipment such as facemasks.
Construction divers at work. The spring melt plus a recent thunderstorm caused the groundwater to rise by over a meter.
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