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It may look completed, but another construction season ahead for the twinning of MR 35

A third layer of asphalt still needs to be laid along a stretch of freshly twinned Municipal Road 35 between Azilda and Chelmsford
MR 35 as seen on December 2. (Supplied)

The twinning of Municipal Road 35 between Azilda and Chelmsford appears completed, but it’s still slated for another season of construction. 

Only two of its three layers of asphalt have been laid, city director of engineering services David Shelsted said, adding that construction is expected to be completed by mid-summer 2022. 

“We appreciate people’s patience in dealing with construction and having to go through gravel sections as we build one side of the road, pave it and move people to the other side of the road,” he said, adding that the stretch of road will be fully accessible throughout the winter. 

Crew members might still be on site cleaning it up for the winter, but he said work is done for the season and will recommence as soon as possible in the spring. 

The widening of MR 35 was recommended in the Sudbury Regional Transportation Study in March 1992 and reaffirmed in the 2005 and 2015 Transportation Master Plan studies. 

Area city councillors actively advocated for the project in 2016 and city council approved it the following year, with construction beginning in 2018 at a budgeted cost of $40 million.

The city managed to pare the project’s cost down to approximately $35 million as a result of lower than expected tender rates and minimizing costs associated with property takings. 

“We took some unique engineering solutions,” Shelsted said, pointing to the use of a retained soil system along stretches of the road, which is like a retaining wall to steepen the embankment so they could widen the road within the property the city already owned.

That’s why there’s a lot of guard rail used along this roadway, he added.

The project also includes wider paved shoulders to accommodate cyclists and pedestrians, with rumble strips along the white edge line serving as an added safety measure. 

Some stretches of road where there are more driveways were widened to five lanes to accommodate a middle turning lane and the project included the installation of longer culverts and the replacement of almost a kilometre of new water mains, with the city upsizing them from 150 mm to 300 mm in diameter.

Most of last year’s work had to do with water mains.

This is an important project for area communities, Ward 4 Coun. Geoff McCausland said, adding that it serves as both a direct connection between Chelmsford and Azilda but also downtown Sudbury to the east. 

“Tons of people travel that every day to get to work or play or for all aspects of life,” he said. “It’s great to see it being renewed in such a serious way. … The new investment should mean the road will better stand up to the heavy mining trucks that barrel down it every day between the mine and smelter.”

During a normal, non-pandemic year, Shelsted said this stretch of road typically sees between 15,500 to 18,000 vehicles per day and that the lifespan of the work being done is approximately 20 years before a major resurfacing project would be necessary. 

Crack sealing and other minor maintenance will take place before then, he said, and usually begins within a few years of completion. 

Additional road work is expected to take place on MR 35 between Azilda and downtown Sudbury next year, McCausland said, including a hot-in-place road recycling pilot project that will see existing asphalt repurposed. 

This is an effort Mayor Brian Bigger promoted in his state of the city address in September, during which he said that using recycled asphalt they have already paid for “is better for the environment, and at a significantly lower cost than traditional road resurfacing methods.”