The four-lane Nudgee to Deagon section of the motorway is already facing congestion issues and demand from growth in the state’s south-east, particularly as it services the Brisbane Airport, Port of Brisbane and the Australia TradeCoast precinct.
To alleviate these pressures, the motorway from Nudgee to Deagon is being widened to six lanes and being delivered with important safety and efficiency improvements for more 83,000 vehicles that use the motorway each day.
Jointly funded by the Australian Government ($914.18 million) and Queensland Government ($228.54 million) with an 80:20 split, the project is being managed by the Department of Transport and Main Roads (TMR) and Transurban Queensland. Lendlease has been appointed to design and construct the project.
Warren Crowther, Lendlease Project Director, talks to Roads & Civil Works Magazine about the task at hand, challenges involved and sustainability measures employed on the major infrastructure project.
Construction started in early 2016 and is due for completion in late 2018.
Design and early works are now complete with the team well into the main construction phase, including physical pavement construction and civil components.
“Upgrading the Gateway Motorway to six lanes involves substantial road widening and bridge construction, with 13 bridge structures to be built or upgraded. Much of the bridge work requires widening of existing structures, which is a technically challenging exercise given our requirement to maintain traffic flow throughout construction,” says Mr. Crowther. The upgrade also involves building the new Nudgee interchange, a new northbound bridge over Sandgate Road and the Shorncliffe rail line, and the construction of a new shared pedestrian and cycle path along the length of the project.
“What makes the project quite unique is the focus on sustainability, which is driven by TMR and Transurban Queensland,” says Mr. Crowther. “They’ve taken the unusual but welcomed step of making it a contractual requirement for the contractor to obtain an ‘Excellent’ rating through the Infrastructure Sustainability Council of Australia (ISCA) rating system.”
The ISCA Infrastructure Sustainability (IS) Rating is used to evaluate sustainability across the design, construction and operation of infrastructure, which helps evaluate the environmental, social, economic and governance aspects of projects and assets.
The ‘Excellent’ valuation is the highest rating available through the system and has been awarded to large infrastructure projects such as the $1 billion Gateway WA. The Gold Coast Light Rail project is the only other transport infrastructure project to achieve the ‘Excellent’ rating in Queensland.
“Achieving an ‘Excellent’ rating, particularly as it is a prerequisite of winning the design and construction tender, has posed numerous challenges that are being addressed and overcome by the project team on a daily basis,” says Mr. Crowther.
“The IS Rating is a very robust assessment process, so we really have to challenge what we do. We have to keep it in mind with every step of design and construction. To achieve our goal we’ve got to receive an excellent score with 65 points across six themes and 15 categories in design and as-built.”
Some measures employed on the Gateway Upgrade North project include the use of solar panels for site facilities, LED lighting, and using local suppliers to minimise truck movements and subsequent emissions. “We’ve also improved access roads and paths to ensure we minimise haulage and carbon dioxide emissions generated by heavy vehicle movements,” he adds.
Mr. Crowther says people are beginning to recognise the importance of the IS Rating and the benefits for the community and the wider industry. He agrees that given the uptake of the ISCA Rating, sustainability may become an increasingly prevalent element of the tender process for transport infrastructure projects in the future.
Tying into the project’s main sustainability theme are many environmental considerations.
“We’ve got a number of real challenges in that environmental space. We’re working with tidal waterways, wetlands and culturally significant areas,” says Mr. Crowther.
Even some of the construction programming had to change according to the nature of the environment and the often turbulent Queensland climate. Much of the area, being low-lying, is susceptible to Queensland’s wet season during the summer months.
It isn’t just Queensland’s unique environment that presents a number of challenges to the project, but its wildlife too.
In the initial stages of the project a red imported fire ant nest was discovered less than five kilometres from the southern end of the project site.
Fire ants are seen as a particularly destructive species, and Mr. Crowther says the potential for more nests to be discovered within the project area is a challenge the team must manage.
“We now undertake fire ant inspections every 28 days, pre-mechanical disturbance of the soil and thorough vehicle cleaning. When we move soil around we have to make sure fire ants don’t get transported,” he adds.
Safety management a core focus
The project team has taken a systematic approach to health and safety management while implementing new control measures.
“Our number one safety issue is working around high speed motorway traffic. To minimise traffic delays during the day, the majority of our work is undertaken at night in close proximity to moving vehicles,” says Mr. Crowther.
The project is using real-time information and data on its trucks and machinery to track where the vehicles are, what they are doing and if they even speed or take a corner too tightly on site. This is to mitigate dangers associated with workers and the plant machinery they operate and work around.
This is assisted by the project’s introduction of QR codes for its workers and equipment.
“We’re using a paperless system for the management of all our people and plant. Every machine and person on the job has a QR code that we can scan with a smartphone to access real-time information in the field about plant maintenance and staff training and skills,” says Mr. Crowther.
The QR code contains information on each particular machine or person. For instance, an individual worker will have a code that shows their qualifications and what machinery they are certified to operate when scanned. Likewise, the QR code on construction machinery will show data on its condition, such as when it was last serviced.
“We’ve only just started using this technology and can see the benefits already. There are other Lendlease projects employing it at the moment,” he adds.
Mr. Crowther says the project team is taking a different approach to the overall wellbeing of the workers on site.
“The rationale is that healthy, happy people are more productive and more successful in their jobs,” he says.
The project facilitates a range of voluntary opportunities in this space, including activities such as boot camps, which are aimed at fostering a strong health and wellbeing culture.
Workers have access to medical personnel for health checks on non-injury related issues such as cholesterol and general wellbeing too.
Mr. Crowther says the project is also implementing the SafeSpine program to help with preventing back injuries by educating workers on the potential strains and risks to the spine associated with the kind of work they do.
The Gateway Upgrade North project is a major transport infrastructure project that will reduce congestion, improve travel time reliability, accommodate future growth and improve the overall safety of the road network.