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Long-term proactive approach sustains Saskatchewan transportation assets

The Saskatchewan Ministry of Highways constructs and maintains over 26,000 kilometres of highways, 800 bridges, 15,000 culverts, 18 airports in northern Saskatchewan, 12 ferries on the Saskatchewan River system, and a barge on Wollaston Lake. Effectively managing and operating these assets is critically important to Saskatchewan’s economy.

Within the transportation network, maintaining and upgrading existing drainage infrastructure is a significant undertaking. Project Manager and Senior Designer, Patrick Murphy, explains, “The large number of drainage structures, varied topography, and expansive geographic area makes drainage asset management a challenging task.”  

Since 2014, Associated Engineering has collaborated with the Ministry on a multi-site assignment to complete hydraulic designs and construction administration of culvert replacements, including bridge to culvert hydraulic designs and culvert to culvert hydraulic designs. Our role includes completing site assessments, survey, detailed design, and tender for each site. The Ministry selects and prioritizes sites based on the risk to public safely.

For the Associated team, the major design challenges include project timing, emergency situations, permit applications, insitu soil conditions, assessing existing damage, traffic accommodation consideration, and water levels for each of these sites. We have implemented a variety of innovative solutions to overcome these difficulties.

For example, the team uses a tri-hull, self-propelled boat and RTK GPS (real-time kinematic global positioning system) sonar survey equipment to enhance survey accuracy. In addition, for water testing, the team uses a pH/EC (electrical conductivity)/TDS (total dissolved solids) water tester to assess potential replacement materials for resistivity and pH levels to aid in selecting materials that will extend the service life of replacement alternatives at each site. We create GIS (geographic information system) applications for mapping, project management, photo management, and records management. 

“Having an established team to complete designs and tender-ready construction documents assists the Ministry in their asset management and provides a quality, well designed solution at each site. We tender projects at times for the most cost-effective replacements. This approach aids in reducing risk and challenges, both from a public safety and economic impact perspective.”

Additionally, our solutions consider climate change impacts, such as weather and runoff changes. We engage environmental specialists to help assess fish passage considerations. These specialists help identify fish passage requirements and highlight considerations for design flowrates when upstream habitat will not support fish habitat. 

Many First Nations communities are located in the vicinity of these replacement sites, including on roadways that provide sole access to communities and where drainage is a critical consideration. Our team has actively engaged and communicated with First Nations on all sites. Provincial and National Parks are also within the project areas. Consultation with First Nations and keeping stakeholders informed streamlines the transition from detailed design to construction.

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