Project

A short cycleway but a major challenge

The Rapanui to Shag Rock Cycleway in Christchurch opened a year ago, thanks to Higgins who dealt with some major challenges during its build and delay. Information supplied by Higgins and edited by Alan Titchall.

The Rapanui to Shag Rock Cycleway, part of Christchurch City Council’s Major Cycleway Routes, provides an eastern connection from the central city.

This 2.4 kilometre, $6 million, cycleway section is designed to keep cyclists away from busy roads, providing Christchurch’s eastern commuters safer route connections, and with priority at road crossings.

The council sought a delivery partner who cared about the community, understood the political pressures facing the city, and had respect for the hardship befallen on the region of late.

Working in close partnership with the local council, Higgins staged the project as a sequence of works, so it had the least impact on the local communities and travelling public, as it covered around 10 major residential and business areas across 10 busy intersections.

At tender, the job was planned in seven main stages that were broken down into three to four sub-stages that overlapped, or interrelated, largely to maintain access and reduce disruption for residents, pedestrians and business customers.

“Smart programming was used to insert stakeholder requirements early in the construction that, at times, resulted in productivity inefficiencies, but allowed for the community to carry on business as usual as much as possible,” says Higgins.

By keeping the lights on, the water flowing, and the traffic moving, the project team was able to reduce, and even eliminate, any disruption to the surrounding community.  This aspect, plus the quality of the delivered asset, was widely acknowledged at the opening ceremony by local and central government officials and local users.

“The area was a densely populated residential zone requiring a high level of stakeholder awareness. The usual stakeholder considerations of parking, congestion, affected journeys, noise, and dust were all well-managed.

“However, operating as a good neighbour and taking early consideration in our programme for special localised needs, and bringing the community on the construction journey was critical, and it gave them a voice in the construction methodology, which was key to gaining the community’s acceptance of our presence outside their front doors.”

For instance, for a disability service provider on Worcester, the team created a new carpark and alternate access before project work was undertaken on their road frontage. At the Fitzgerald Avenue intersection, while the council worked on a redesign of the intersection, Higgins revised its traffic management which resulted in a lane of traffic remaining open at all times and eliminating the need for road closures.  “This varied significantly from the originally planned methodology and with no extra costs incurred.”

While there were challenges along the way, the project was delivered as expected, it is a valuable cycle asset and the lessons learnt during construction were applied to later sections of the construction and have been applied to future projects as council continues delivery of our Major Cycleway Routes programme.

An unexpected delay

In the middle of the summer of 2017, while the Christchurch region was recovering, the Kaikoura earthquake hit.

A key telecommunications fibre-optic cable ran directly through the Rapanui to Shag Rock cycleway site.

“The risk of potential strikes or damage to the cable rose to a critical level as this cable became vital to the region’s telecommunications after other cables carrying the load were damaged during the quake.”

Higgins agreed with the council to a six-week site shutdown to protect against any potential damage to the cable, and severance to critical emergency communications during the natural disaster.

This was at the time of the project’s  most productive peak time during favourable weather, pushing programmed work to the end of winter, and creating a raft of other challenges for the civil construction work streams during winter, surfacing and final completion of the project.

Utility services

Adding to the complexity of the project was a redesign of 75 percent of the area’s drainage after the project started.

The installation of new stormwater drainage was a key project deliverable and a significant piece of infrastructure in the city’s rebuild.

Due to high groundwater levels, the redesigned stormwater drainage required more than anticipated dig-outs below the groundwater level with de-watering and pumping required.

Moreover, the environmental output of the pumped out water required special treatment to ensure it was sufficiently clean, resulting in an uncontaminated flow into the stormwater system.

There were also a multitude of known and unknown underground services to work around.

“This required close collaboration with utility and telecommunication providers, as much of the as-built information was either inaccurate, or missing.

“A series of investigations and potholing were undertaken with observers from the various service providers to ensure there was no disruption to these critical services from the construction activities.”

This surveying service levels allowed Higgins to also assist the council to update its as-built information and data for all services along this 2.4 kilometre route.

The client’s perspective

The Council understood the complexity of delivering the MCR programme, which included 13 cycleways to a high standard to meet community expectations and that of the future city’s urban landscape.

Consultation on the cycleways drew strong interest from the public, cycle users and interest groups, residents’ groups and local community boards. The council acknowledged that Higgins took great care and duty to look after community interests in-delivery and in handing over a high-quality asset to the Council and the community.

“Further, the Council achieved value for money at Fitzgerald Avenue and at Aldwins Road. Rather than pursuing road reconstruction as per the original design the asset was managed through milling and resurfacing existing pavements, resulting in cost and efficiency savings and reducing the need for highly disruptive works.

“While still achieving quality surfaces, this significantly minimised the construction impact on two main arterial routes with work completed over several days rather than several weeks.”

As Lynette Ellis, Christchurch City Council manager transport planning and delivery says, Higgins was engaged at a time when cycleways were still controversial with the communities they were being built in, and the council was still learning what worked in terms of construction sequence and form.

“While there were challenges along the way, the project was delivered as expected, it is a valuable cycle asset and the lessons learnt during construction were applied to later sections of the construction and have been applied to future projects as council continues delivery of our Major Cycleway Routes programme.

“The Higgins team worked with the community to minimise the disruption during construction and went the extra mile where it could to assist with access or special needs particular residents had.

“Higgins was highly responsive when issues arose and made sure the residents were impacted for as little time as possible.”

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