One of the most challenging jobs ever undertaken by Dawson Construction Limited is underway in West Vancouver.

It involves the multi-million dollar Upper Levels Highway expansion project. The 3.1 miles of road work is costing the provincial government $2 million a mile – double the cost of the Fraser Canyon Highway.

Barry Drummond, vice president Operations, commenting on the job, said “the Upper Levels has taken more energy than any other job this company has done in terms of public relations and supervision.”

One of the major problems facing workmen is in blasting rock from the mountainside, often only a few yards from private homes plus the danger of rock falling “down steep embankments to the B.C. Railway tracks below.

Project superintendent Herb Grant, noting that it is the most expensive road ever built in B.C. “It is very hard on the nerves” because of the large amount of blasting and rock removal.

One of the reasons the highway is costing so much is because of the unusual number of overpasses per mile.

By the time Dawson has finished the job, it will have moved an estimated one million cubic yards of rock and about 150,000 yards of other material.

About 350,000 cubic yards of rock will be crushed for aggregate and the remainder will be used for fill. One fill, now completed, took over 650,000 cubic yards.

It is removal of this tremendous amount of rock that is causing the most concern. And Drummond credits drilling and blasting chief, Al Schikowski, with keeping nervous breakdowns to a minimum.

Unlike most rock removal jobs, the rock on the Upper Levels often times has to be blasted as close as 50 feet to private property valued anywhere from $50,000 to $100,000, and at times be dropped onto the width of a roadway to avoid blocking the B.C. Railway tracks which run below.

As an example of Dawson’s concern over the project, the company has employed an entire crew of qualified powdermen rather than one powderman with helpers.

In addition, property adjacent to a blast area is thoroughly inspected before and after a blast in order to definitely establish any possible liability against the company.

“Other than that, all we can do is exercise careful powder control and collaring procedures as well as keeping the blast smaller than normal,” said Grant.

The three miles of highway have a total of seven over and underpasses along with a large number of retaining walls. Drainage is always a problem in the area and a total of 1.5 miles of culvert will be installed. One culvert, using both 54-inch concrete and corrugated steel pipe, will stretch over a distance of 1,200 feet.

Dawson’s contract ranges from the original base work to the laying of 40,000 tons of pulvi-mix in readiness for paving which will be let under a separate contract. Under new department of highways specifications, which call for a plant mix and machine laid job, however, the pulvi-mix could be used for a few years before the paving is done.

Almost next door to the Upper Levels project, Dawson has another large piece of work underway – the access road to the Cypress Bowl.

The road runs from the Rogers Creek area through a series of switch-backs to the 3,000-foot level of the mountain which will be developed into a recreational area at a future date.

“This is strictly a dry weather show because of the very high silt content in the soil which causes the material to run away when it rains,” said project superintendent John Bader.

The $1,750,000 job is scheduled for completion in September and is being done in two stages. The first, 5.5 miles long, involves clearing, grubbing and building road to the pulvi-mix stage. On the remaining section, Dawson has a contract to clear and grub for approximately four miles and then tenders will be called for the actual building and pulvi-mix application.

In all, a total of 165 acres stand to be cleared and 330,000 cubic yards of rock will be moved, 170,000 cubic yards of which will be crushed in a 66-inch cone crusher. Other material moved will total about 600,000 cubic yards.

Photo Caption: BUILDING THE UPPER LEVELS HIGHWAY extension entails much excavating and blasting-sometimes within 50 feet of private property of high value. An unprecedented system of checks and controls has been employed.