An upgrade to one of the nation’s busiest and largest freeways that boosted safety and reduced travel times has been recognised with the most prestigious prize in the Australian construction industry.
The project to revamp a section of Melbourne’s M80 Ring Road was announced as the winner of the 2023 Australian Construction Achievement Award at a gala dinner at the Crown Palladium in Melbourne this week.
Widening 5.7 km of freeway between Sydney Road and Edgars Road in Melbourne’s north, the project was delivered by CPB Contractors and Major Road Projects Victoria.
“This complex project reduced traffic congestion by improving safety and increasing capacity through additional lanes, ramps and a smart freeway management system, all constructed in and around live traffic,” said CPB Contractors Project Director Raphael Touzel.
“The key to the project’s success was collaboration, unique technical solutions, creating a social legacy and an innovation and sustainability culture.”
Working alongside 165,000 vehicles each day, the team completed its work six months ahead of schedule and under the client’s budget.
“Our technical solution maximised work offline, away from the freeway traffic,” Touzel said.
“The key aspects were shifting a major exit ramp, avoiding the need to construct two bridges over the Hume Freeway and saving our client, MRPV, $10 million.”
The team also retained and extended a cable-stay pedestrian bridge that spanned the freeway, rather than demolishing and replacing it, saving around one million dollars, 120 tonnes of steel and 50 cubic metres of concrete.
The project’s intelligent transport system, featuring new infrared traffic loggers, had to be implemented on to the freeway while maintaining and relocating existing communications fibre and power services.
The new transport system features overhead electronic signs, cameras, vehicle detection capabilities and signs that communicate changing speed limits and responses to incidents.
Other innovations rolled out during the project included safety measures such as a truck that could automatically deploy and retrieve traffic cones, an autonomous surveying robot nicknamed Matey that marked lines on the roads and a system of blue beacons that marked when it was safe to enter a plant operating zone.
It was important to maximise the amount of work that could be undertaken behind safety barriers, as construction took place alongside some of Melbourne’s busiest interchanges.
Green way ahead
The M80 upgrade also made significant environmental achievements, marking the first time an Australian freeway used recycled content in every pavement layer.
“As a team we challenged ourselves to find sustainable solutions,” said Touzel.
“Working with MRPV, Department of Transport and Ecologic, we amended the pavement design to not only incorporate reclaimed asphalt but also Reconophalt, a material containing recycled plastics — a first on a Victorian freeway and a legacy for the industry going forward.”
The materials used also included 22 million glass bottles, 35.5 million plastic bags, 800,000 ink toner cartridges and 49,000 tonnes of crushed Class 3 and 4 concrete.
“Overall, our material selection reduced greenhouse gas emissions by over 40 per cent, avoiding 18,530 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent,” Touzel said.
Beginning work in 2020 and having to confront the COVID-19 pandemic, the project created and retained hundreds of local jobs. Twenty social enterprises and 25 Aboriginal businesses — including Indiya Geospatial, the main survey contractor on the project — were engaged, resulting in a total of $16.9 million spent on Aboriginal and social enterprises.
Other workforce diversity efforts included engaging six Australian disability enterprises and four businesses in regions of entrenched disadvantage on the project.
Andrew Robilliard, Project Director and Superintendent at project client MRPV, praised the team.
“CPB Contractors have performed at a superior level throughout the contract, consistently exceeding the minimum requirements of the contract through a collaborative and open approach with the MRPV project team,” he said.
Engineers Australia CEO Romilly Madew AO praised the finalists for responding to industry challenges to bolster the sector and continue to strive for excellence in construction.
“Covid-19 disruptions to supply chains and project schedules, economic factors and shortages of skilled personnel in key areas – engineering being one of them – have combined to challenge the sector,” Ms Madew said.
“In trying times, constructors have relied on strong and positive workplace cultures and uncompromising standards of safety and quality. They have embraced technological advances in planning, design and project management to earn their place among the stable of finalists.”
The Australian Construction Achievement Award is presented annually by Engineers Australia and the Australian Constructors Association. Seven projects showcasing exceptional ingenuity and excellence were honoured as finalists at this year’s gala dinner.