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Thickwood Interchange and Highway 63 Tangent Pile Wall


The Thickwood Boulevard Interchange is being constructed in conjunction with the Highway 63:11 Corridor improvements through Fort McMurray to accommodate extremely high volumes of local and commuter traffic, in addition to overdimensioned vehicles going to the oil sands through this very constrained corridor. The Hwy 63:11 corridor improvement involves a combination of grade widening and new construction of 9.5km of freeway, from 4 to 6 lanes, and the construction of C-D lanes (1 to 3 lanes) from downtown to Confederation Way. When complete there will also be 3 new bridges constructed across the Athabasca River which will provide a total of 10 lanes of traffic. AECOM was retained by Alberta Transportation to provide preliminary engineering, detail design, tender preparation, construction supervision, contract administration and post-construction services for the Thickwood Boulevard Interchange in Fort McMurray. This involves converting the existing at-grade signalized intersection to a “trumpet” interchange to facilitate the high volume northbound left turn movement which is currently handled by a 3-lane dedicated left turn bay. Innovative design solutions were required to address:  Hillside geotechnical stability due to an abundance of weak compressible clays and layers of oil sands in the subsurface;  Restricted right-of-way with Highway 63:11 wedged between a steep hill to the west and the Athabasca River to the east;  Horizontal and vertical sight distance issues from the north side of the river bridges up to the Thickwood Boulevard Interchange;  Congested utilities within this narrow right-of-way;  Accommodation of over-dimensioned transport trucks;  Incorporation of oil sand and weak compressible materials overlying bedrock found on site in embankment construction;  Permitting from major pipeline companies, municipal infrastructure, storm pond and outfall facilities, existing fish bearing creek; and  Tender schedule to meet the overall staging plan of the entire Highway 63 corridor for 6-lane conversion. Innovative designs solutions that AECOM incorporated into the project included:  A two level MSE wall retaining system to accommodate the over-dimensioned vehicles traveling to the oil sands sites to the north, with the wall system designed to address huge ice flows during spring break-up;  Large scale multimillion dollar utility relocations and installations throughout the length of the project limit to tie-in to various infrastructures, allowing the corridor to be cleared of utilities prior to the road construction;  Construction of extensive secant and tangent pile wall systems both at the base of the steep slope below the Thickwood subdivision and along the Athabasca River to mitigate slope failures and enable the realignment of Highway 63 into the valley slope;  Develop and provide an adequate width to accommodate the highway widening and a new C-D roadway; 3  A Vulcan Gate interlocking movable centre median barrier system to accommodate overdimensioned transport trucks maneuvering between Thickwood Boulevard Interchange and the next interchange north at Confederation Way should over-dimensioned transport trucks not be able to access the highload bypass;  An Open Bottom Arch culvert of deep corrugated structural steel designed for Conn Creek to span 90m across 10 lanes of traffic while minimizing disturbance to the natural channel – preserving or improving fish habitat.  An automated anti-icing system incorporated into all bridges to increase safety for road users.

Conference Paper Details

Session title:
Ferhan Bhanji
Leon Seto
Small municipalities