If your commute into Calgary includes Rainbow Road it could be a long winter.
To complete the Rainbow Road Sanitary Trunk project, Chestermere Utilities Inc. (CUI) has closed the road between Rainbow Falls Gate and TWP 240 for the duration of the work which started on Oct. 23 and is scheduled to last until April 1, 2018.
“I know that this six-months seems like an eternity to the folks who are impacted, if we could have found our way through to not closing the road we would have,” said CUI CEO Leigh-Anne Palter.
“We really think that this is the best approach,” she said.
A 1.2 metre pipe is being installed to connect lift stations 10 and 12 to lift station 13, taking pressure off of the existing infrastructure and moving it to lift station 13.
Palter said that best industry practices have this kind of pipe installed under roadways.
Keeping industry best practices in mind, planners at CUI did explore other options to try and find a way to reduce the disruption to people’s commutes.
“We were very aware we would not be popular if we were closing the road,” said Palter.
“We did look at some alternative pipeline alignments but really the complexity and the cost that they added…made them not viable alternatives.”
What they have been able to do is work with the City of Chestermere to adjust the timing of the lights at the intersection of Chestermere Blvd. and Rainbow Road to help ease the congestion created with the extra traffic volume there.
“We’re going to try and create some relief by changing the timing of the advanced green,” she said.
Potentially adding to commuter’s frustrations, a lot of the work is being done underground using a tunneling device, which means driving past the closure it isn’t necessarily obvious as to why the road is closed.
“We’re building it in such a way that people will not see a lot of what’s happening,” she said.
CUI has dug a 13 metre hole that is the width of the road between lift station 13 and the Western Irrigation District’s canal.
“We’re doing all the work below ground,” said Palter, “we’re micro tunneling the pipeline.”
The equipment needed for the tunneling is very specialized to the point Palter believes they are using the only one available in Western Canada.
The tunneling work is very delicate and needs to be expertly done to ensure the project is done right and will last for the planned lifespan of the pipe.
“They’re basically driving a tunneling machine 13 metres underground, in the dark,” said Palter.
Because of the finicky nature of the work it is also very time consuming to complete.
The timing of the project has been restricted by Alberta environment because of the need to go under the canal.
“We’re only allowed to go underneath the canal in the winter,” said Palter.
This project has come about as Palter and staff at CUI have been working over the past few years to update the system in Chestermere.
“I would say this particular project stems back to some work we did over the fall of 2015 through to the spring of 2016,” said Palter.
That work included a review of the system that was Palter’s first good look at it after taking on the role of CEO.
It was discovered that with the growth of the city, eight of CUI’s 12 major pieces of infrastructure were no longer compliant with Alberta Environment standards.
“Alberta Environment has a different set of standards if you’re a very small town, a summer village or those kinds of things,” said Palter.
As the system becomes more complex with more customers, larger service areas and more diverse needs, the regulations change.
“As the make-up of the community changes the compliance standards or the design standards change over time,” she said.
With the rapid growth that Chestermere has experience this is what led to so many pieces of infrastructure that were compliant for Chestermere the summer village and town, being no longer compliant for Chestermere the city.
Upon discovering the non-compliance CUI worked to put a plan in place to address the shortcomings of the system.
“We put in place a plan over five years that identified fourteen critical projects,” said Palter.
She said most of those projects were completed in the first two years of the plan.
This is where the Rainbow Road Sanitary Trunk project and the road closure comes in.
As part of CUI’s continuing efforts to update their system and prepare for future growth, the decision was made to install the oversized 1.2 metre diameter pipe connect lift stations 10 and 12 to lift station 13.
“We’re going to relieve the capacity at those assets bringing it to compliance by pushing it through to lift station 13,” said Palter.