B.A. Blacktop Ltd.

When West Vancouver’s scenic North Shore was developed, access to it was limited. “In the 1950s, the Guinness family from England had bought a sizable amount of property on the North Shore in West Vancouver,” relates Dave Wylie, project superintendent for B.A. Blacktop Ltd. “So they built a toll bridge to get access to the properties.”

The family of English brewers had developed thousands of acres on the North Shore. Those passing over the Lions Gate bridge that they built were charged a toll. Eventually, the bridge was turned over to the public and the toll was removed, Wylie explains.

Since 1956, B.A. Blacktop Ltd. has built municipal roads, provincial highways and interchanges, container port terminals, airport runways, transit facilities, environmental habitats and industrial and commercial sites. The company has been involved in several aspects of the Lions Gate Bridge.

B.A. Blacktop paved the redecking and widening of the bridge approximately eight years ago while it was kept open during the day. The company also paved the Stanley Park causeway that leads to the bridge. In August 2010, B.A. Blacktop started construction of a $9 million overpass over Marine Drive – which runs perpendicular to the bridge – and reconstructing the interchange at the north end of it.

Financed partially by Build Canada stimulus funds, the Marine Drive Transit priority project is located only a few hundred yards from the Lions Gate Bridge at the end of its approaches. One of the reasons the new 40-meter-long overpass is being constructed is that the old one was too low for modern trucks, which would collide with the top of the overpass too frequently, Wylie reports. The company is paving approximately 2 kilometers of roadway for the project. “It’s not a whole lot, but it’s very involved,” he explains. “It involves a high-traffic area.”

Half and Half

Because of the gradual development of the area, the overpass will replace two independent structures. One – which was built from 1935 to 1939 – carried two lanes of traffic. In 1956, an additional structure with two more lanes of traffic was built next to it when development of the area grew. “One was a concrete arch and the other was made out of a steel frame underneath with old sheet piles and filled with gravel and asphalt on top of it,” Wylie says.

The double construction of the previous overpass allows each structure to be demolished and rebuilt while traffic in both directions is diverted to the remaining structure. “It’s a two-phase sequence, where we build the bridge half at a time,” Wylie explains. 

“We still have to maintain traffic over the existing bridge.”

The finished overpass will be cast in place with reinforced precast concrete girders. It will extend over four lanes of traffic and carry three lanes south and two north. Completion is sche­duled for March 2011. B.A. Blacktop is fun­c­tioning as general contractor on the project and self-performing the asphalt, grade work and traffic management.

Three main subcontractors are working on the project. Coquitlam Ridge Constructors Ltd., a subsidiary of BA Blacktop Ltd., is doing the structural work on the bridge. Another subcontractor is doing minor excavation and another the electrical work.

Because a river runs nearby, environmental concerns necessitated watching for sediment control and run-off. Approximately 300 meters of storm sewers from 300mm to 750mm in dia­meter are being placed 3 meters underground.

Asphalt Recycling

BA Blacktop Ltd. has four asphalt plants in British Columbia. They are in North Vancouver, Chilliwack, Sechelt and Powell River. The one in North Vancouver does asphalt recycling.

“We do a couple of things – we either crush it up and remanufacture it – some jurisdictions allow up to 15 percent recycled asphalt back into the mix,” Wylie says. “We use it just as a road base. We crush and combine the asphalt and gravel and concrete and reprocess it as a 19-millimeter or 25-millimeter road base. We’re hoping to use up to 7,000 cubic meters on this Marine Drive project.”

Limitations are placed on the amount of recycled asphalt that can be used on a project because of the aging process asphalt goes through, which involves oxidation. “It loses some of its physical character and performance characteristics and degrades over time,” Wylie notes. 

“You can’t just put it back in at extreme percentages. They’ve done the science on it. Some places are going up to 30 to 35 percent, but it also becomes a manufacturing issue. Generally, you can get away with 15 to 20 percent and not affect the long-term performance of the asphalt.”

B.A. Blacktop Ltd. services all of Vancouver. “Most of our paving and gravel operations are on the Sunshine Coast,” Wylie declares. “A lot of our paving takes place within about 20 miles of our asphalt plants. It’s just the southwest corner of British Columbia.” 

The company does major projects and smaller municipal and development projects such as strip malls but no residential work. “We’ll get into all sorts of road work and a little underground work, such as catch basins, manholes, sanitary sewers, street lighting and electrical. If it has to do with building and roads, we’ll do it – we subcontract out a lot of it. We specialize in asphalt and the paving, milling, recycling and general contracting.”

The philosophy of B.A. Blacktop Ltd. is to do it right the first time. “We really value our relationships – we have a lot of repeat customers,” Wylie reports. “We have a lot of customers that only call us back and trust our workmanship and value that we bring to them. Most of all, we value our ability to do quality work, to satisfy our customers and to maintain our relationships in a workable manner.”  

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