Helping Hamilton - SH1 four-laning

Cambridge Construction’s $2 million four-laning of a kilometre of State Highway 1 eases the city’s traffic congestion.   BY GAVIN RILEY

Interviewing Waikato contractor Chris McCoy was not quite the routine task one might have expected, for the simple reason he’s a young man on the move.

First, he was not free of work till midday Friday. Then he was on his way to his beach house. Next, he was re-fuelling his boat and readying it for launching. Finally, he was able to talk...except the phone line from his mobile at his seaside location was none too clear.

The significance of all this is that for McCoy there is obviously life outside work – a departure from the traditional image of the contractor as a workaholic who, like the proverbial rust, never sleeps.

The 28-year-old general manager of Cambridge Construction Co felt quite at ease taking time off over the holiday weekend to enjoy the completion, bar a few exceptions, of a $2.1 million roading project.

McCoy is a good example of an industry up-and-comer who was in the right place at the right time.

Having gained his civil-engineering diploma, he joined Cambridge Construction straight from polytech eight-and-a-half years ago as projects engineer. About two years ago, when the owner retired, McCoy was able to buy the business with the help of three Auckland business associates.

The company, founded in Cambridge in the early 1980s, is now based in Hamilton, where there is no shortage of civil-construction work.

The $2.1 million contract McCoy’s team of up to 20 has just completed is the four-laning in the city of State Highway 1 between Church Road and Avalon Drive.

The work, which began at the end of August last year, required the widening of the highway from two to four lanes between the Church Road and Base Parade roundabouts, a distance of 500 metres, and the widening from three to four lanes between the Base Parade and Avalon Drive roundabouts, another 500-metre stretch. Shared pedestrian and cycle facilities also had to be constructed.

The project posed two major challenges – traffic management and drainage installation.

The impact on traffic flows had to be kept to a minimum and Cambridge Construction had to ensure two lanes remained open for the duration of the project.

“It’s Hamilton’s busiest road. Traffic flows by at 28,000 vehicles a day,” McCoy says.

“It also runs past The Base, Hamilton’s new and biggest shopping development.”

Originally, work was to be undertaken only from Monday to Friday. No work was scheduled for the weekends when traffic flows were at their highest, due to Base shoppers. Eventually, the restriction was relaxed to allow Cambridge Construction to do some work on Saturdays.

Even harder than traffic management was the drainage because, says McCoy, “it was right in the centre of the highway”.

He adds: “It was a struggle every day, just working in that traffic. But we didn’t have any complaints. We did pretty well, really.”

Cambridge Construction carried out about 10,000 cubic metres of earthworks on the project but subcontracted the traffic management and road surfacing to Fulton Hogan Waikato. Sayer Drainage of Raglan provided labour for the drainage work, and the roading aggregate was supplied by Perry’s.

Church Road-Avalon Drive four-laning is a stage-one contract (completed on March 24 apart from shoulder closures for berm work). The stage-two contract, to be let later this year, involves the $3 million upgrading of the Avalon Drive-Wairere Drive-Te Rapa Straight intersection. Cambridge Construction has been carrying out $500,000 of enabling work, including the shoulder widening of Wairere Drive.

Transit New Zealand regional manager Chris Allen says stages one and two are aimed at improving the efficiency of a busy section of State Highway 1 by reducing the congestion hitherto caused by merge delays at the single-lane sections between three two-lane roundabouts.

He says Church to Avalon is the first of a wider package of integrated projects which together make up Hamilton’s western corridor strategy.

“The aim of this strategy is to align all transport options to meet future city growth through the Te Rapa-Hamilton west area. The strategy includes the Te Rapa bypass and the Avalon Drive bypass projects.

The Church-to-Avalon four-laning is being delivered in partnership with Hamilton City Council, which has contributed towards the construction cost.

“Completion of this project will reduce traffic congestion at a pressured join of the city’s ring road to the state-highway network,” says council transport committee chairperson Dave Macpherson.

“However, it is the critical stage-two intersection upgrade which will see a noticeable improvements in traffic patterns.”

Before undertaking Church to Avalon, Cambridge Construction’s biggest con-tract was at the 16 hectare Base shopping complex, where the company has spent three years. It has been responsible for demolition and clearance work, all the earthworks and most of the drainage, a 2000-vehicle carpark, roads and building pads, and is currently carrying out the landscaping.

Cambridge Construction’s fleet of 20 machines includes a new Cat 12H grader and two recently acquired truck-and-trailer units – a mark of Chris McCoy’s faith in his company’s ability to compete.

“We have a really good relationship with Transit and the engineers. I’m hoping to get more Transit work in the future,” he says.

“We have a pretty good future as long as we keep picking up the work. I’m very enthusiastic about it and our directors are really good. Their backgrounds vary from construction and marine development to advertising and property development. We’ve got a really good mix.”

Contractor Vol.31 No.4 May 2007