Stantec produces dozens of optimized alignments for Ontario’s Highway 144, avoiding protected lands and other no-go zones
Stantec is a design consulting firm that has more than 14,000 employees working in over 230 locations across the globe. The company provides architectural, engineering, and environmental services for a variety of building, construction, and resource projects.
When it comes to alignment planning and highway design, Stantec has an excellent reputation in the industry. For the Ontario Highway 144 project the company was tasked with the route planning and environmental assessment for a new Controlled Access Highway between Chelmsford and Dowling. Stantec leaders wanted a better way to analyze the impacts of proposed corridors and determine preferred alignments.
Trimble Quantm Professional Alignment Planning System
- 50% faster in producing high-quality alignments
- Submitted high-quality routes and alignments to the Ontario Ministry of Transportation (MTO), meeting RFP requirements
- Analyzed proposed routes and compared impacts and costs with visual documentation of results, including incorporating alternative alignment suggestions from the client and the public
- Presented results at public meetings with higher confidence
Stantec has worked with the Ontario Ministry of Transportation (MTO) on highway planning, preliminary design, detail design, and construction administration projects across the province. MTO awarded Stantec the planning and preliminary design work for an 18 mile (30 kilometer) section of Ontario’s Highway 144. Highway 144 is a heavily traveled road by both local and provincial traffic, particularly the route between the communities of Chelmsford and Dowling.
For the Highway 144 corridor study, Stantec was required to develop a new alignment for a four-lane Controlled Access Highway. Designers were also asked to analyze alternative routes that would bypass the communities of Chelmsford and Dowling. Tim Belliveau, transportation engineer for Stantec, explains that the topography in Northern Ontario is typically rugged and comprised of protected natural habitats, including wetlands. Faced with this challenge, Stantec adopted the Trimble Quantm Alignment Planning System.
In essence, the Quantm system automates the complex calculations required to generate and investigate a large number of alternative alignments quickly. Quantm develops route options that take into account user-defined requirements and suggests multiple, optimized alignments.
During the Highway 144 corridor study, Stantec hosted a two-day workshop to demonstrate to the MTO how Quantm works. The team loaded municipal GIS data into Quantm, as well as a number of critical project parameters including agriculture reserve land, forested areas, existing recreational trails, parks, protected natural habitats, and other no-go zones. Culturally significant areas or historical markers were also flagged as avoidance zones. The Highway 144 corridor includes historical mining areas, trails, and other environmentally sensitive areas that need to be avoided when building a new road.
Stantec used Quantm to produce hundreds of viable alignments very quickly, and then grouped alignments together to make broader corridors that were initially presented to the MTO and ultimately to the public.
“Quantm allowed us to look at a lot more factors in a lot less time than doing it by hand,” said Belliveau. “The software reviewed topography, cost, social factors, and environmental considerations very quickly to get corridor alternatives that minimized impacts at the same time. The system suggested many alignments and from there we tweaked the routes to identify the top options. Instead of weeks – or even months – of work, we had this step done in just a few days.”
Belliveau believes Quantm can save 50% of the time required on the onset of a route planning study, as well as even more time throughout the life of a project.
“While it may take a little more time early on because you’re loading in all the initial constraints, with Quantm it’s incredibly simple to go back and make updates at any point,” said Belliveau. “We can continually tweak the parameters as constraints change or as we learn more about the area.”
In contrast, Belliveau points out that traditional route planning methods are tedious. To explore viable alignments for road expansions in the past, the Stantec team had to review contour maps and create models along any chosen route. For each route, designers had to run cross-sections along that alignment to see what effect a side slope would have on the route location. They then had to rerun the horizontal and vertical alignments to reflect those changes. Running scenarios for multiple alignments using a manual method limits the number of route options that can be systematically explored.
“During community meetings, or Public Information Centers (PICs), we’re often asked if we considered alternative routes,” said Belliveau. “The real advantage with Quantm is the ability to be able to look at all those routes at the same time and have all the factors included. It gives us a lot more confidence when we're speaking to the public because we have analyzed those factors and locations. We can say ‘we've looked at this route and it is 50% more costly and here are the impacts.’ I think that is a huge advantage, which translates into cost savings and shows our commitment to doing what’s best for the community and environment.”
Belliveau believes Quantm is a great tool to help designers on route planning projects. It is no longer seen as a luxury, add-on technology. In fact, several recent MTO route planning studies have required designers to use alignment optimization software for the study.
“There’s no doubt that we appreciate the value that Quantm provides in route planning studies,” said Belliveau. “A lot of it is being able to look at all those factors very quickly. When you're doing it by hand you're looking at maybe a handful of factors; whereas with Quantm, if you have 20 different factors and they're all GIS files, you can quickly load them in and assign a rating to them. Not only do we save time and money, we always have a more thorough and complete route plan.”