Concrete Saws Carve the Way for Electronic Expressway

Katie Wohlman / December 28, 2000

The largest highway project ever awarded to a private consortium in Canada
is now under construction near Toronto. A joint venture among four Canadian
construction companies called Canadian Highways International Corp. is organizing
the construction of Highway 407 in conjunction with the province of Ontario.
The 407 is being built to by-pass traffic around the north end of the city
of Toronto and connect its existing 400-series highway system.

The $1 billion Canadian ($730 million U.S.) expressway, which will run parallel
with Toronto's 401 multi-lane highway, is being developed to alleviate traffic
on the city's other main highways. "The 401 is running at about 80%
of its designed capacity so there's a lot of congestion and gridlock on
that highway," said Blake Ryder, president of Roadmaster, a subcontractor
working on the project. About 350,000 vehicles an hour travel the highway
during peak periods.

The construction of Highway 407 will result in more than 650,000 cu m (855,263
cu yd) of exposed concrete stretching nearly 70 km (44.75 miles) from Toronto's
eastern border to the city's western edge. It will eventually connect all
of the 400 series highways running north-south throughout Toronto.

The first phase of the project-36 km (22.5 miles) running from Highway 404
to Highway 410-is expected to be completed by the end of this year. The
second phase will include a four-lane extension that runs west from Highway
410 to Highway 403 and another section east from Highway 404 to Highway

"It is one of the first jobs where the ministry of transportation
and private enterprise have gotten together to build a major highway. If
the government had been building it under normal funding, it would have
taken 20 years to complete the project," Ryder said. By awarding the
job to a private consortium, funding is being raised through project-based
financing rather than through taxes.

Ryder explains, "The consortium will maintain the road for 35 years
and collect the road tolls to pay for the cost of construction and maintenance.
After that period of time, the government will become responsible for operating
the toll road."

With six lanes-three lanes each flowing east-west-Highway 407 will be the
first steady toll road in Canada and one of the first electronically run,
non-stop highways in the world.

For frequent users, who set up a pre-paid account, an electronic device
placed on their vehicle's windshield will be read by an electronic transponder
that will store the motorist's personal identification code and registered
toll account. License plates of infrequent users and drivers without transponders
will be photographed by cameras and sent to the ministry, who will then
add the license plate numbers to its database and send the user a bill for
the toll.

The electronic-toll system was developed by a consortium of Canadian companies
led by Hughes Aircraft of Canada, and including Bell Canada, Bell Sygma
and Mark IV. It created the technology over about a two-year period and
will be responsible for maintaining it.

Passenger cars are expected to pay roughly nine Canadian cents a kilo-meter
or $1 Canadian for an 11-km trip (73 cents U.S. per seven-mile trip). Commercial
vehicles will pay a little more, and those without a transponder will pay
more than those who have them installed.

Since concrete was first poured in mid-July 1995, the construction crews
of Basic Concrete Cutting Inc., Mississauga, Ontario, and Roadmaster have
been working zealously to bring this main artery to life. The two companies
formed a partnership on the project and began working as subcontractors
for Dufferin Construction, a division of St. Lawrence Cement, Oakville,
Ontario, who also supplied the cement for the project. "Because it
was such an extremely large job, it would have been too much work for any
one company to handle, so the two of us decided to join forces," Ryder

Responsible for all of the saw cutting and sealing of the contraction and
construction joints, the companies used nine pavement saws manufactured
by Magnum Diamond & Machinery, Inc., Grandview, Mo., to complete the
work. Roadmaster was responsible for the widening and sealing, while Basic
Concrete Cutting performed the relief cutting.

To assist in keeping the project on schedule, Roadmaster purchased two new
Magnum Diamond PS6585 SuperMag pavement saws.

"We used the new saws in conjunction with four Magnum saws that we
already owned," Ryder said. "We were running three of the saws
to make the first cut, the relief cut, at about 33¦4 in. deep. We used
the other three to do the widening for sealing the joints at an inch and
a half deep by a half-inch wide."

Basic Concrete Cutting Inc. also purchased two new SuperMag pavement saws,
along with a center-line guide to assist in completing the expansion cutting.
"The cuts we made, both the transverse and longitudinal, were about
31¦2 in. deep. The center-line guide helped keep our saws in the exact
same spot over the entire length of the job," said Jim Sterioff, president
of Basic Concrete Cutting.

The center-line guide system is designed to enable precise cutting in concrete
construction. "One end of the guide is spring loaded, so it will take
up any minor deviations in the edge," said Jeff Arnswald, vice president
of marketing and sales for Magnum Diamond. "Up to three pavement saws
can hook to the guide with their front pointers and push the guide along.
The weight of the guide also helps keep the pavement saws in track."

The center-line guide contains three sections assembled right on the concrete
slab, including a center section, two end sections and the wheel sections.
"The wheels on top of the slab and on the side of the center-line guide
keep it moving straight by following the edges of the concrete," Arnswald

Working anywhere from 12 to 16 hours a day, six days a week, and covering
about a kilometer (over half a mile) of highway in several different locations
were some of the biggest challenges of the job, according to Ryder. "The
challenges we encountered are representative of the proj-ect's size,"
he said. "It was a little harried at times because there were three
to four crews pouring concrete at the same time, and getting to each place
at the appropriate stage in the concrete curing process was difficult. "The
SuperMags gave us a lot of flexibility on the job because we were able to
pack up and move to different locations quickly. The saws enabled us to
do our cutting within six to 24 hours after the concrete was poured,"
Ryder said.

Work on the project was delayed due to the unseasonably cool weather experienced
in Toronto this spring; how-ever, work resumed on June 10.

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