Quantm helps MHW Global produce dozens of highly credible alignments in just two days instead of several weeks for proposed Otaki to Levin Expressway in New Zealand.
MWH Global is a world-wide leader in the sectors they service, from water infrastructure and transportation infrastructure to construction engineering and mining services. The company has a highly experienced team of some 8,000 professionals, operating on six continents. Together, they provide innovative, sustainable solutions to challenging projects in communities around the world.
MWH Global was commissioned to investigate the economic, social and environmental viability of a 20 mile (32 kilometer) stretch of expressway between the towns of Otaki and Levin, New Zealand. The project is a part of a larger infrastructure initiative managed and sponsored by the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA). In addition to being a greenfield build, where undeveloped land is used, the infrastructure project also includes a number of additional constraints, ranging from historical and cultural to environmental and geotechnical.
“During the scheme planning phase the design of the alignment had to avoid going directly through the town of Levin,” said Marten Oppenhuis, Chief Transportation Engineer for AP Design, MWH Global. “The brief was also to present corridor options that respected environmentally sensitive, culturally protected land, as well as flood-prone areas.”
Oppenhuis and his team considered applying conventional alignment planning and investigation techniques to the planning and design phase of this project. However, that process can be tremendously time consuming and expensive. Historically, in order to create viable alignments for rail or road works projects, designers have to review contour maps of an area and create models along any chosen route. They then have to run profiles and fit an acceptable grade line to those profiles.
Next, for any given alignment, planners have to run cross sections along that alignment to comprehend what effect cross section width and batters would have on the route footprint. Finally, designers have to rerun the horizontal and vertical alignments to reflect any changes required. This multi-step iterative process must then be repeated for every new constraint that is identified. Even the smallest changes to the horizontal alignment, grade or cross section must be updated through the design software alignment plan.
Because of the complex constraints of the area, Oppenhuis and his team began exploring alternatives to conventional alignment planning options. MWH selected the Trimble® Quantm™ Alignment Planning System.
The Quantm system automates the complex calculations required to investigate a range of alternative alignments and aids the decision-making process. It is unique in the way it supports project planners, investigators, designers and engineers in analyzing corridors and generating 3D alignments for road and rail projects. The software simultaneously considers the topography, engineering parameters, environmental, cultural and community issues involved in the planning process and construction cost.
“In conceptual alignment work, particularly in greenfield roadway development projects, Quantm has a tremendous ability to consider all feasible alignments for any given set of criteria, and it can do this almost instantly, without project delays or cost increases,” said Oppenhuis.
MWH Global designers and investigators received short, hands-on training with the Quantm system where they learned to operate the software, define data sets, create constraints and review alignment options. In just two days, Oppenhuis was able to identify dozens of viable routes for the 20 mile (32 kilometer) expressway. Each one of the final 20 alignment options presented to the NZTA met the constraints of the infrastructure project. The team also applied the constraint focused Area Corridor Route Easement (ACRE) process to develop the route proposal. This method is known to greatly reduce the area of impact included in a road project, or other infrastructure projects.
The NZTA valued the alignment options resulting from Quantm and the ACRE process, and the way it was able to quickly distill alignments which were potentially viable at the concept investigation stage. The Quantm outputs can support public presentations, communication with the public and create a more open dialog about the project potential solutions at an early scoping stage in the investigation.
“It is clear to me that Quantm is a very useful tool in the early stages of alignment development,” said Jo Draper, Project Manager with NZTA.
The software can show the complete route or zoom in to demonstrate how an alignment impacts or avoids a particular zone or environmentally protected area, including the earthworks footprint. Planners and investigators can also provide documentation that tracks an individual route scenario investigation and consideration of alternatives. It also documents the methods used in reaching a more refined route selection. With the alignments developed from Quantm, the NZTA is able to show to the public, through hearings, meetings, and other outreach events, that each constraint — from environmental to cultural — was thoroughly considered in the expressway route selection process.
“With Quantm we were able to create dozens of credible alignment options from an engineering and environmental perspective in less than a week compared to the 4 to 6 weeks it would have taken us with conventional route planning, where typically only a few options are scoped,” said Oppenhuis. NZTA encourages consultants to use Quantm in the conceptual/scoping investigation phase of projects that suit its use.
During the next phases of expressway design, the short-listed Quantm generated alignments can be exported directly to design software such as MX or 12D and also to CAD and GIS software. From here, designers develop the design of the short listed options to determine the preferred option, which is then taken through to detailed design.
Oppenhuis believes that in the coming months and years, the Quantm solution will continue to deliver substantial Return on Investment (ROI) for MWH and for its clients. He sees significant potential in greenfield development and in the mining industry where mine haul/access roads need to be constructed quickly and economically.
He also sees an opportunity to use Quantm to support small to medium sized road improvement projects, particularly where safety is a concern. When funding allows, city, state, and federal agencies re-evaluate horizontal and vertical alignments of a roadway where a high number of traffic accidents are recorded.
For earlier stage corridor planning and alignment studies, the Quantm system returns a range of ten to 50 best options for review by various stakeholders. Not only does the Quantm system substantially reduce alignment planning time and deliver optimized routes that meet all constraints, even for re-alignment applications, it also provides a powerful way to review corridors, assess options, and present the most feasible route options to decision makers.
“Quantm is a conceptual and credible planning/investigation tool that generates viable alignments much more quickly than conventional route planning methods,” said Oppenhuis. “The bottom line is that it allows us to be more competitive and our clients to manage their liabilities and reduce costs.”
- Produced dozens of highly credible alignments in just two days instead of several weeks
- Met critical environmental and cultural project constraints
- Substantial Return on Investment
- Allows MWH to be more competitive and their clients to reduce costs
NOTE: The Otaki to Levin Expressway investigation proved to be economically non-viable and the NZTA are pursuing a project which is focused on a staged improvement of the existing highway, with upgrade to a 4 lane median divided expressway still ultimately in mind.