Terri-Jane Yuzda


Engineers Help Meet Demands of a Growing Grande Prairie

The City of Grande Prairie faces continuing challenges, with no end in sight for a boom that's generating $90 million a year in non-infrastructure building. Peace River Branch engineers are helping the city and the community deal with unprecedented growth.

Peace River Branch

Keeping Up with the Boom
Second-stage paving takes place along Resources Road in Grande Prairie, in the southbound lanes, looking south.

When our branch executive brainstormed ideas for this article, words such as "infrastructure," "growth," "north-south trade corridor" and "community knowledge campus" came forward. What did these words have in common? Grande Prairie!

Grande Prairie's Growth
Over the last three years, Grande Prairie's population has grown by an average of four per cent per year, as compared to 1.7 per cent for other Alberta cities of similar size. There are now more than 40,226 people in Grande Prairie, and the activity around town shows it.

Grande Prairie reported a record year in 2002 in building construction activity (not including any infrastructure construction) at $117 million, with an impressive five-year average of $90 million per year. The boom continues in 2003. "We already see 903 new legal parcels for residential, commercial and industrial subdivision development so far this year, as compared to the total amount of 892 for the year 2002," says Frank Daskewech, R.E.T., Public Works director.

Municipal improvements by developers were a record $13 million in value in 2002, and it is projected that this will be exceeded in 2003. Road upgrades and rehabilitation plans are underway, and the city is looking to spend more than $5 million per year in the next two years on road and sidewalk repairs or rehabilitation of transportation infrastructure.

The transit system has also risen to the challenge to support this growing infrastructure through the development of a transit master plan, which won the Canadian Urban Transit Association's Exceptional Performance in Transit Award in 2001.

"Transit use on average has increased more than 16 per cent over the last three years," says Karen Bustin of Transit Services. "I guess that is why Metro Magazine rated Grande Prairie's transit system in 2001 as one of the top 10 fastest growing transit systems in North America."

Building Knowledge
In the midst of the growing infrastructure comes the innovative concept of "shared community" in the Community Knowledge Campus. Because of its impact to all of us in Grande Prairie, an APEGGA Technical Night regarding the campus was held - and well attended - a few years ago, when it was still in the conceptual phase.

With an original budget of $77 million, the CKC is a joint venture of the City of Grande Prairie, the Grande Prairie Catholic School District, the Grande Prairie Public School District and the Province of Alberta.

Today, the concept includes a Catholic and a public high school, a multi purpose gymnasium, an indoor running track, twin ice surfaces, an aquatic centre, a gymnastics facility, an arts centre, a community science and technology resource centre, a wellness centre and a gathering area and food court - all under one roof.

Says Greg Scerbak, Community Services director: "One unique aspect of this project is the sharing of infrastructure between the partners. For example, all the heat to the CKC will come from the boilers in the Catholic High School and the air conditioning for the CKC will come from the chiller plant in the arena. An underground utility corridor serves to connect the necessary infrastructure for the components of the campus."

Outdoor recreation and sports facilities are also part of the project: two running tracks, two ball diamonds, two combination soccer/football pitches, four senior soccer pitches, eight tennis courts, four sand volleyball courts, a multi-use asphalt pad for basketball, tennis and hockey, and a playground/picnic area.

The Catholic High School, twin ice surfaces and a portion of the outdoor sports facilities have been built and are in use. Next under construction will be the gymnastics facility, adding about $4 million to the original budget.

The scale of the proposed aquatic centre is still being considered by city council and may add an additional $10 to $15 million to the original budget.

Engineering Involvement
All this activity is keeping many Peace River Branch engineers busy. Out of the 212 members in the Peace River Branch, 65 per cent live in Grande Prairie and area. At least 20 per cent of those people are directly involved with the growth and development of Grande Prairie's infrastructure, not to mention many other engineers working here from other major centres.

Key roles that these engineers play are providing services such as surveying, conceptual and detailed design of roads and services, project management, field engineering, and contract administration.
The City of Grande Prairie employs three full-time engineers and several engineering technologists to support the growth in infrastructure.

Serving the Trucks
One of the challenges facing Grande Prairie's transportation system is serving the trucking industry, which relies heavily on transporting goods on our roads to reach its various destinations. "Many of our road upgrades over the next few years are a result of heavy resource-based trucking required for our local oilfield and forest products economy," says Darwin Juell, P.Eng., and manager of Transportation Services. "Some of the road upgrades needed in the next few years include reducing congestion on the already busy Highway 43 corridor and Highway 40 corridor, and in the downtown core."

"The city is growing in all corners, and each quadrant has its own unique challenge," says Kristine Donnelly, P.Eng., Development Services engineer. "We have water supply, water pressure, sanitary capacity, storm management and road challenges. However, by working in partnership with many engineering consultants, we have been able to find the right solutions to support our growth."
She continues: "There is more work than our city engineering resources allow. Having more resources would definitely help!" The city is currently recruiting engineers in its Transportation and Development departments.

And Beyond
Infrastructure growth is not happening just within city limits. Newly formed Aquaterra Utilities Inc. a for-profit company created from the partnership of the City of Grande Prairie, the County of Grande Prairie, and the County of Sexsmith, employs two full-time engineers and a number of technologists to accommodate regional development.

The company provides regional water, waste water and solid waste services in and around the city. "Our objective," says Bernd Manz, P.Eng., the general manager of Aquaterra, "is to provide high quality, reliable water sources to the region."

The North-South Trade Corridor, which was a hot topic for an APEGGA technical night last year, will provide a continuous divided trade corridor from Montana, through Alberta to Alaska. The North-South Trade corridor runs through Grande Prairie via Highway 43.

Currently, there's a proposal to realign Highway 43 around the City of Grande Prairie, west of the airport, to provide a continuous, non-stop access route for transportation. This $95-million project will span the next 5 years and may provide more opportunity for Grande Prairie to be a viable location for future manufacturing facilities.

The city also plans to upgrade Highway 40, the other major highway intersecting Grande Prairie, by twinning the roadway from 100th Avenue to 68th Avenue to a four-lane divided highway.

"This city's 10 years of exceptional growth could not have happened so seamlessly without the contributions of this region's professional engineers and engineering technologists," says Grande Prairie Mayor Wayne Ayling. "We are fortunate to have highly trained and experienced engineers in both the municipal and private sectors who work together to achieve the best results for the community and the private developers."

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