Charging ahead with the M1

Eight Mile Plains to Daisy Hill is one part of the M1 Pacific Motorway works. Department of Transport and Main Roads South Coast Deputy Regional Director, Andrew Wheeler, explains how the project is coming together.

As one of Australia’s busiest roads, upgrades and widening works are being undertaken on the Pacific Motorway all the way from New South Wales right into Brisbane.

The future of the M1 looks bright with Federal and State projects including the $1 billion Varsity Lakes to Tugun and the $750 million Eight Mile Plains to Daisy Hill upgrades kicking off this year.

This funding came on top of the projects already agreed with the Federal Government including the recently completed $218.5 million Mudgeeraba to Varsity Lakes and the $195.3 million M1-M3 Gateway Merge upgrades.

Following extensive planning Eight Mile Plains to Daisy Hill, the second step in the upgrade between the Gateway and Logan, has progressed from a business case to the start of construction.

With an expected completion date of late 2024, Andrew Wheeler, Department of Transport and Main Roads South Coast Deputy Regional Director, explains the intricacies of the Eight Mile Plains to Daisy Hill project and wider M1 works.

The M1 works are split into sections, all being delivered separately. The M1 program team also decided to further divide these sections with individual packages to make up each section of work.

The eight-kilometre Eight Mile Plains to Daisy Hill section will be upgraded in four different packages. The first will cover the section from Sports Drive to Gateway Motorway and package two is an early works package for the upgrade of the old Pacific Highway. Package three will see upgrades from Watland Street to Sports Drive, and the final package will build the new Rochdale Bus Station park and ride section and a dedicated busway alignment.

“Unlike other major infrastructure projects, that can be made up of one large design and construct package, we have broken it up into four packages,” Mr. Wheeler says.

The focus for Eight Mile Plains to Daisy Hill in 2020 will be the first two packages. Construction has already begun on package one and construction will start shortly on the Pacific Highway early works package. Both are scheduled to be complete by late 2021.

Completion of the first two packages will lay the foundation for packages three and four, which are scheduled to commence in 2021 and 2023 respectively and be completed by the middle to end of 2024.

“Package one for us is a large project but it sets up the remainder of the project there. Being in an urban environment, we have to get package one and two completed so we can seamlessly roll into projects further south and the busway,” Mr. Wheeler says.

Construction in a brownfield environment is one of the project’s major challenges Mr. Wheeler highlights.

“We have the issue of well over 150,000 vehicles on average daily. So, trying to upgrade a motorway alignment within that corridor, with urban environments on either side, is quite challenging,” he says.

This was one of the reasons the project was set up in packages, as the design could be done early for the first two packages and the project team anticipated that would set up the rest of the works well.

Mr. Wheeler notes that presenting the Eight Mile Plains to Daisy Hill project with multiple design and construct contracts came with its own hurdles. With multiple design packages and designers, it was really important teams could work together and integrate ideas.

“We worked closely with design consultants, ensuring that we had a lot of integration and collaboration meetings and used certain software collaboration tools. This way we were able to confidently share design matrixes and models across each of the design packages,” he says.

“It was definitely something we identified as a risk. I have to credit industry there, they worked really closely with their colleagues and were able to deliver an excellent outcome.”

Mr. Wheeler says due to the brownfield environment of the M1 projects, noise is a key consideration for works and Eight Mile Plains to Daisy Hill is no different.

“Managing noise related impacts is something that Transport and Main Roads Queensland takes extremely seriously. This is why the department is governed by the Transport Noise Management Code of Practice; which in turn is managed by the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection,” he says.

“The code sets out key guidelines and processes for us to manage noise on road infrastructure projects.”

To mitigate the effects of noise, the M1 project team worked closely with the contractor during the development of their proposal and onsite management plans. Mr. Wheeler says this confirms there is a detailed noise and vibration management plan on each project.

“We ensure they are looking at strategies and processes to complete high impact or high-volume work during day hours to minimise night noise,” Mr. Wheeler says.

“This can be challenging in these locations, noting that we have the complete inverse requirement around traffic volumes which means we can only do limited daytime closures and a lot of night works.”

He says as a solution the scheduling of high impact work is investigated to see if the team can complete tasks offline during the day or consider performing those works in the early evening to best accommodate local residents.

“We also use detection and noise monitoring devices to ensure the contractor is complying with its noise and vibration management plan in line with what they expected the limits to be,” Mr. Wheeler says.

Communication has been a key component to the Eight Mile Plains to Daisy Hill project. Ensuring local residents and businesses are aware noise impacts well in advance, so they can plan accordingly, is an important ongoing consideration for the project.

“We look to sign up as many people as possible to our localised traffic email updates and SMS alerts. This sends out information in advance as to those key activities, to allow motorists to plan their journey and residents to understand what is happening in the area,” Mr. Wheeler says.

The design and construction teams also consider whether it is feasible to place permanent noise barriers in the final position, prior to the reminder of construction taking place.

“Noise in urbanised environments is a significant issue but we do try to work closely with everyone involved to get the right outcome,” he says.   

With construction set to span years and an average of 150,000 vehicles travelling along the Eight Mile Plains section of the M1 each day, traffic management was also a huge consideration.

“The standard approach we take is that we need to keep traffic moving during construction projects. One of the key things we include as part of our traffic management requirements is ensuring the speed limits are set at a reasonable standard,” Mr. Wheeler says.

On the M1, it is important for contractors to ensure the speed limits are set at a consistent level for a motorway alignment. This can often be around 80 kilometres per hour but can be lowered if necessary.

Mr. Wheeler says it was also important to keep as many lanes open as possible. If short term closures were required the team would try to schedule this for night works, or in some cases consider building a side-track alignment.

He says similarly to noise disruption, communication was a key consideration for traffic management.

“It’s really about getting out there and explaining to the community what our constraints are as part of that project and ensuring we let them know in timely manner if there are going to be traffic impacts across the duration of the project. What we want to avoid is unexpected impacts and traffic issues for motorists,” he says.

From an environmental perspective the Eight Mile Plains to Daisy Hill project, along with the section of works from Varsity Lakes to Tugun, is registered for an Infrastructure Sustainability Council of Australia (ISCA) rating scheme.

Both sections have a minimum goal of achieving an excellent rating across the design and construction phases, which will reflect excellent work in many areas of sustainability.

“The Department has a key goal there to make the projects as sustainable as possible. The M1 north and south are charging ahead to track down that excellent rating under those schemes,” Mr. Wheeler says.

“There are such a broad range of elements when you look at sustainability, a lot of times it could be around the environmental impact but it’s a lot larger than that so it’s a key focus for us.”

Though completion of the project is still years away, it is expected these upgrades will improve travel time and reliability while also providing targeted impacts for other modes of transport such as cycling or buses.

“Eight Mile Plains to Daisy Hill will hit three key components for us, it’s going to improve active transport connectivity, increase and improve public transport options to join to the new Rochdale bus station park ‘n’ ride and extend the busway down to Springwood. Then on the road network we are going to have significantly improved travel times and reliability as well as improved safety that goes with reduced congestion and faster peak travel,” Mr. Wheeler says.

“This project is moving away from traditional thinking of just improving the road for user of the car. It is looking at getting a fully integrated infrastructure upgrade that targets all groups of moving people along that corridor. We are excited to be getting out on the ground and getting construction moving.”

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