The James Bay All-Season Road Feasibility Study won an Award of Merit at the 2021 Ontario Engineering Project Awards (OEPA) hosted by ACEC-Ontario. The OEPA program recognizes the dedication and innovation advancements of ACEC-ON’s member firms within the engineering industry.
This Feasibility Study was a collaborative effort between the Mushkegowuk Council (MC), Attawapiskat First Nation, Kashechewan First Nation, Fort Albany First Nation, Moose Cree First Nation and Taykwa Tagamou Nation. This unique project has the potential to provide significant benefits to these communities.
Andrew Harkness, Director and Senior Project Manager with Morrison Hershfield expressed that “This has been an important and exciting project for Morrison Hershfield. We appreciate the opportunity to have worked with the Mushkegowuk Council and the western James Bay communities. It was a great collaboration, where traditional knowledge, technical innovation and extensive community engagement all came together to produce a successful study outcome.”
The 150,000 square kilometre study area located in the northern part of the Mushkegowuk Traditional Territory is adjacent to the west coast of James Bay. These northern communities currently rely on winter roads, rail and air to transport people and goods into, out of, and within the region.
The recommended new all-season road project includes 525 km of gravel-surfaced highway that offers a year-round connection linking the western James Bay communities to each other and to the provincial highway network in the south. It has the potential to transform life for members of the affected communities, offering significant benefits and opportunities if implemented in a manner that sustainably protects the environment and the long-term interests of the Mushkegowuk people.
Assessing the feasibility of a new all-season road in Ontario’s Far North was a complex undertaking. Challenges like the vast study area, remote fly-in communities, difficult geotechnical conditions, sensitive environmental considerations and diverging community views were addressed through extensive community engagement, the application of traditional knowledge, multi-factor quantitative and qualitative assessments, and innovative design methodologies.
Emphasis on Community Involvement
Spending time building relationships with leaders and members of each of the affected communities was a key component of the study. Taking the time needed to build trust and to develop a consensus at each key stage in the study process were key priorities. “We embraced the opportunity to engage with the communities in a process that facilitated mutual learning. Traditional Indigenous Knowledge gathered and shared through the study process was integrated with scientific and engineering inputs, leading to the selection of a recommended route and the associated design parameters,” said Harkness.
Ryan Small, Director Technical Services, Mushkegowuk Council was pleased with the study process and outcomes, commenting that “Morrison Hershfield was diligent in their completion of this study, meeting the project objectives set out by the Mushkegowuk Council. We appreciate their approach to weaving social, economic and cultural values into the study through early and ongoing community and stakeholder engagement.”
The proposed design includes 525 km of all-season road on a new right-of-way, comprised of two primary sections (inland and coastal). The roadway is anticipated to be a gravel-surface public highway, with a design width of 9.5 m, a design speed of 100 km/h and a posted speed of 80 km/h. The design includes 70 bridges, and 100 additional identified medium and large diameter culverts to span watercourses.
Highlights of the complex, multi-year study include:
- Established a multi-factor approach, involving some 44 individual criteria to assess the relative merits of each major corridor alternative, facilitating traceable, clear and logical decision-making.
- Implemented a dynamic and interactive engagement program, using a combination of methods including in-person and online strategies.
- Flexible scheduling to accommodate complex logistics and unpredictable challenges – such as weather events.
- Applied the Institute for Sustainable Infrastructure’s Envision sustainable infrastructure rating system framework to identify how the study incorporated sustainability and climate change resilience, and to identify ways it could continue to be further enhanced.
- Developed innovative design methodologies, such as a floating pavement design for areas where muskeg depth was greater than two metres.
- Identified benefit enhancement measures that can be implemented to ensure that positive effects are maximized for the affected communities and to protect social, economic and/or cultural values.
ACEC-ON Virtual Awards Ceremony
For a brief video overview of the James Bay ASR study and award announcement, watch here.
To view ACEC-ON’s complete virtual Ontario Engineering Project Awards ceremony, and see all finalists and winners, click here.
You can access ACEC-ON’s press release here.
Morrison Hershfield shares this award with the Mushkegowuk Council and all project partners and contributors, in particular:
Grand Chief Jonathon Solomon, Deputy Grand Chief Rebecca Friday, the Chiefs and Councils of each of the Mushkegowuk members, and Ryan Small, Director of Technical Services at the Mushkegowuk Council.
The community coordinators, caterers, translators, interpreters, and all community participants from Attawapiskat, Kashechewan, Fort Albany, Moose Factory, Moosonee and Taykwa Tagamou Nation.
Funding partners, including Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada – Lands and Economic Development, Innovation, Science, and Economic Development Canada - Federal Economic Development Initiative for Northern Ontario (FedNor), and the Ministry of Energy, Northern Development & Mines - Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation. The Ontario Geological Survey also provided significant support.
Our Project Team members: CreeGeo, Golder Associates Ltd., Shared Value Solutions Ltd., McLeod Wood Associates Inc., Keir Corp. and Sikon Corp.