Night work earns Pioneer paving award.
The award-worthy 2004 contract undertaken by Pioneer's Thunder Bay operations involved a rehabilitation project on a busy 15-kilometre stretch of pavement on Highway 11-17 between Nipigon and Thunder Bay.
Besides adding passing lines, Pioneer placed about 55,000 tonnes of Superpave Hot Mix Asphalt, a new type of asphalt paving mix that prevents rutting.
The $9-million MTO contract on the MacKenzie section of the highway involved pulverizing the old surface, placing new granular material and applying the Super-pave asphalt.
Phil Annett, Pioneer's vice-president for northwestern Ontario, says Superpave is a relatively new mix for Northern Ontario, but has been in use in the rest of the province for about six or seven years.
Although it is more concentrated and compactive to apply, Annett says, it's a very high end, high-grade asphalt mix. Two layers were placed, including a binder mix with 19 millimetre-size aggregate and a surface coarse mix with 12.5 millimetre-size aggregate.
What makes for an award winning paving job is a highway section's appearance, compaction, smoothness and compliance to MTO guidelines set out for all capital highway projects. But Pioneer also scored well for the innovation of paving at night. At job's end, the MTO scored the project 90.54 out of 100 on their contractor performance index.
A big challenge in taking on the job was the "horrendous" volume of traffic that funnels through the area. Highway 11-17 is the only road that connects Ontario and the east with Western Canada.
"It's an important section of highway," says Annett. "We're in the middle of summer, there's loads of traffic from MacKenzie (hamlet) going into (Thunder Bay) for work and shopping, there's tourists and regular commercial truck traffic."
Once they started the daytime paving operation, the complaints from motorists began to mount.
"The Ministry approached us as (to) how we can alleviate this problem," says Annett. Together Pioneer, the MTO and the consultants, Thunder Bay Testing and Engineering, devised a scheme to pave at night.
Annett says night paving is new for Northern Ontario, but is regularly used by road crews on 400-series highways.
To deal with safety and illumination issues, Pioneer brought in high mast portable lights and used two warning message boards.
Pioneer also resorted to night paving operations for main runway contracts at both the Thunder Bay and Sudbury airports in 2004 and 2005.
"Our schedules changed at the mercy of the air carriers' schedules, but we had to make sure it compacted well before we pulled off."
In order to keep flights on time, Annett says there were stiff penalties in the contract that were measured by the minute.
Night paving was so successful and without incident that Annett says they'll do the same in July when they start rehabilitation work on another section of Highway 11-17 near the hamlet of Dorion. That MTO contract is worth $10 million.
Last month, the company was awaiting word on tenders for the 2006 paving season. Annett says MTO officials stated at February's Ontario Road Builders annual convention that the province intends to run a very aggressive highway reconstruction program continuing with ongoing four-laning work on Highway 69 between Sudbury and Parry Sound, and Highway 11 south of North Bay.
Recognition seems to follow Annett around. In 1998, as the vice-president and general manager of Towland-Hewitson Construction, the Sault paving contractor was named the MTO's paver of the year in the northwestern region for its workmanship on a stretch of Highway 17 near Schreiber. It was their second consecutive regional award.
Soon after, their parent company, Warren Paving, sold Towland-Hewiston in 2000 to Lafarge Canada Inc. who eventually sold their construction and aggregate assets in June 2004 to Pioneer Construction.
With headquarters in west-end Sudbury, the 68-year-old company has offices in North Bay, Sault Ste. Marie, Thunder Bay, Fort Frances and Kenora. They employ 60-full-time employees and 600 seasonal workers.
Besides provincial roadway work, Pioneer has performed road work for the City of Greater Sudbury, Sault Ste. Marie, North Bay as well as Inco, Falcon-bridge, Domtar, Canadian Pacific, Canadian National, Ontario Hydro, and various municipal utilities.
By IAN ROSS
Northern Ontario Business