Rain creates problems at Big Move site on King Road; some of the best construction people in the world working on the problems.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON October 7, 2012   They had hoped to get it going at 2:00 am on Sunday but it rained a bit and one of the things about rain is the water has to go somewhere and that somewhere is usually down a hole – problem was the people working on Burlington’s Big Move were in that hole and they had to deal with that water.

This is a view of the construction site before serious work started Friday night.  You can see the earth that had to be excavated before the concrete box could be pushed into place up against the diversionary rail line that is supported by scaffolding so that freight trains can cross.  The rail line crossing at King Road, is seen on the right.

All the earth had been excavated, which was quite a feat in itself, then the rails that the tunnel was going to move along when it was time to push it forward needed to be dropped in place.  A massive crane that had sat on the site while the excavation was done fired up its engines and completed the delicate job of getting the rails exactly where they were supposed to be.

The 2:00 am got moved to 5:00 am and then on to  10:00 am and now it looks like sometime around noon when the 5 million pound structure will be raised just enough using air pressure to inch it forward onto a set of rails that will then allow the “tunnel to slide forward and into position.

That’s when the water problems became evident.  Things were fine on the east side, but the water build up on the west side had to be managed.  Steve Taylor, an American engineer who has done 23 of this kind of project, has been on the site since the beginning.  He had been brought up from Boston to oversee and offer advice and direction, where it was needed.

This view is a look into the tunnel, which is really a 5 million pound concrete box that will get pushed into place.  The first task, which started Friday night at 9:00 pm was to excavate tonnes of earth.  With that done rail lines had to be dropped into the excavated space. Those are the two light coloured patches on the left and right of the excavated hole way at the back of the tunnel.  You can see the front end of a massive truck at the very back, with a second truck out front loaded with additional aggregate that will be used to level out the ground

A little more excavation, pumping out water and getting some aggregate in place seemed to be what was needed.

The working space is quite tight and there is a lot of equipment in there.  At times there were two back hoes, a small bulldozer and a truck loaded with aggregate.  Not a lot of room to move around.  Add to that the frequent passing of freight trains almost directly above.  They move very slowly – five miles an hour – but these are long, long freight trains and there is a lot of noise.

This isn’t a Burlington project.  CN Rail is the lead on this, but if something goes wrong and the rail lines are not back in place, a lot of problems fall into the lap of the city.

The Mayor is out of the country, the city manager is with family in London, ON – so that drops things into the hands of the “get it done” guys in engineering with Bob Jurk, senior project manager on the site, running the city’s part, which Jurk explains is “doing what you are told”. Scott Stewart, city General Manager is on site – he arrived at 2:00 am and has put in the first eight hour shift and moves into his second shift. “It’s a little chilly down here” was his first comment and McDonald is doing a brisk business. Stewart is there to do whatever the city has to do to allow the CN contractors to get their job done.  There isn’t all that much he can do other than think through the various contingency scenarios should the delays result in commuter trains not moving when they usually do on Tuesday morning.

This is a view of the construction site at midnight Saturday, where a new underpass is being put in at King Road and the CN rail line.  You can see a freight train passing through.  The large yellow crane wait to drop rail lines into place that will be used to inch forward the tunnel into the space that is being excavated.  The rail line panels are in front of the truck that is next to the yellow crane.   The tunnel or underpass that was pre-built is in the middle – the roof of the tunnel is black.  This is a very active construction site.  For part of the project CN allowed the public access to the web camera by streaming it live on the internet.  Security and IT server problems had it go off line late Saturday night.

The construction site is referred to as a “live site” which means there are all kinds of people all over the place and while safety is a prime concern – there is a job to be done.  Some of the very best construction people are on the site doing incredible work under trying and changing conditions.

CN had installed two web cameras that streamed everything that was happening live.  Sometime either late Saturday or early Sunday that took out the visual feed to the public.  The legal and the IT people had security concerns – you know that whenever a large corporation stops feeding information to the public there is reason for concern.

The camera that was taken off line is the one that allowed a view from a  higher level – you could see the freight trains passing through and see what the back hoes were doing as they loaded trucks.  The public wasn’t able to see the rail tracks that were lowered into the excavated space.

It has been absolutely fascinating to watch huge truck come in at quite a clip, back up into the tunnel in one move – no going back and forth – these guys get it right the first time, every time.  They arrive, back in, take on their load and are out and on their way in under two minutes.  Professionals that are a delight to watch.  The back hoe operators move the arm up of their machine up and down and sideways as smoothly and as beautifully as a ballet dancer.

The water problems have delayed things – but there was some slack in the schedule.  It looks like the schedule is going to be met but maybe you should do what the city staff on site are doing – thinking through the various options if things don’t go right.

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