ISSN 1913-4673 (print)
ISSN 1913-4681 (online)
Planning, design and construction can take up to eight or more years for highway expansion and 10 years or more to build new highways. While this process seems lengthy, it is necessary to: ensure the appropriate solution is selected; reduce the environmental impact of construction; protect the rights of property owners; and ensure design and construction standards are met.
During the planning stage, area transportation studies are conducted to identify transportation system problems or deficiencies and possible future actions to address these issues. These actions may include additional transportation studies or the initiation of the Environmental Assessment (EA) process to look at transportation needs and alternatives in detail. All public undertakings must receive provincial EA approval. Federal EA approvals may also be required. An EA is conducted to consider natural, economic and social impacts.
The design stage for both Individual and Class EA projects are subject to MTO's Class EA process.
Preliminary design studies include the environmental assessment of broad transportation alternatives and specific highway improvement options.
The next stage, detail design, undertakes engineering tasks such as surveying, testing for soil conditions, determining construction material requirements, and designing interchanges, bridges, and culverts.
Once the EA has been approved, property acquisition can begin. This can take up to 18 months if expropriation becomes necessary or longer yet, should a property owner appeal expropriation through a Hearing of Necessity. In the Hearing, the Crown must prove sound justification for expropriation.
Timing and duration of highway construction depends on numerous factors, including size and complexity of the project, funding availability, property availability, and timing of environmental clearances and permits. Typically, a new four-lane highway is completed in phases, taking two to three years for each section. Timing and duration can also be affected by special circumstances such as legislation protecting fish spawning or bird nesting periods. In urban settings, much work is done at night or off-peak hours to minimize traffic delays.
During all stages of highway planning and construction, the Ministry of Transportation works collaboratively with a wide range of provincial and federal departments; municipalities; transportation, economic and environmental interest groups; First Nation communities; and the general public.