Driving on Highway 410, the north-south expressway which connects the cities of Brampton and Mississauga and links with both Highway 401 and Highway 407, can be less than a pleasant experience during rush hour.
Especially onerous is the stretch from Queen Street in Brampton south to Highway 401. Approximately 188,000 vehicles use that stretch daily, according to Ontatrio's Ministry of Transportation (MTO).
That heavy traffic flow and predicted traffic increases were the catalysts for a 12-kilometre-long, $156.7-million widening which started in 2014 and won't be completed until 2018.
Extending from just south of Highway 401 north to Queen Street and passing under Highway 407, the construction includes the addition of HOV lanes and general purpose lanes in both directions.
As part of this contract, seven structures are either being widened and/or rehabilitated.
Other work includes replacing signage and lighting, installing cameras at four spots and constructing commuter parking lots at two interchanges. They include the Clark Boulevard parking lot which will have 275 regular and 11 handicapped spots and the Courtneypark Drive lot which will have 117 regular and six handicapped spaces.
The contract administrator is AECOM Canada Ltd. and the general contractor is Aecon Construction and Materials Limited.
"This project addresses congestion and operational problems in the Highway 410 corridor," says MTO communications co-ordinator Astrid Poei, in explaining the rationale for the project.
Although not part of that corridor, new ramps from Highway 403 northbound to Highway 401 westbound and Highway 401 eastbound to Highway 403 southbound are also being built.
"Currently, motorists travelling northbound on Highway 403 cannot access Highway 401 westbound and motorists travelling eastbound on Highway 401 cannot access Highway 403 southbound. The new ramps will give motorists access to these missing moves," says Poei.
The roots of the project extend back to 2001 when a preliminary design and an accompanying environmental assessment was initiated to address, "congestion and operational problems on the highway."
As the widening and improvements are within the existing MTO right-of-way, no properties had to be acquired, she explains.
As with major highway construction, however, there are several issues to deal with including traffic management, weather and coordinating the project with several others in the area. These include bridge rehabilitation over Highways 403/401, as well as a widening of Highway 401 to the west of the site.
When construction is in full swing there can be up to 50 workers and more than 15 pieces of heavy equipment on site. The size of the workforce and amount of equipment on site is dependent on the type of work and whether or not the contractor is working days and nights, says Poei.
Currently, the bulk of construction is shut down for the winter, says Kim Cumpson, corporate affairs spokesperson for the Aecon Group.
"However, we have some electrical work, sewer work and structural work that continues in areas that do not impact traffic."
Paving work will begin as soon as weather permits and will be conducted during both daytime and nighttime working hours, says Cumpson.
Asked about some of the project challenges, she cites its aggressive timelines, stringent staging requirements, limited lane closure times and having to co-ordinate the project with others in the area.
In a prepared news statement, Brampton Mayor Linda Jeffrey heralded the project.
"Brampton has been waiting a long time for this investment in the Highway 410 infrastructure. Those leaving and those coming into Brampton every day will benefit from the widening."
It is one of a number of initiatives intended to attract more people, employment, retail growth, and other development, says Jeffrey.
Long-term plans to continue the widening of Highway 410 north of Queen Street have been identified in the MTO's five-year capital program called "Planning for the future beyond 2020."
However, the timing will be determined by funding and its prioritization in relation to other road projects, says Poei.