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Algeria Claims Largest Public Works Project

Mon September 24, 2007 - National Edition
Mary Reed

With an expected completion date in 2010, Algeria’s $11.2 billion East-West Highway is the largest public works project in the world.

Its cost will be covered by Algerian oil revenues, a major source of income, part of which is funding the North African country’s current $60 billion economic development program.

Begun in 2005, the six-lane highway will stretch 756 mi. (1,216 km) between Algeria’s borders with Morocco and Tunisia and will eventually connect Algiers, Constantine, Oran, Annaba, Tlemcen and Setif.

The route of the highway will take it across half of the country’s 48 wilayas (provinces). With approximately a dozen tunnels, 70 viaducts, and 60 interchanges, as well as numerous truck stops, service stations and maintenance facilities, it will link airports and ports as well as the two borders and the cities mentioned.

The massive project is expected to generate more than 100,000 jobs, not only during construction but also for provision of maintenance and service industries connected with the highway after its completion. Among the latter will be toll collection, previously unknown in Algeria.

About the Highway

The East-West Highway will be built in three phases and is intended to ease chronic congestion caused by the movement of goods, which represent 85 to 90 percent of vehicular traffic on Algerian roads. Once completed, travel between major centers will be much faster, whereas at present, for example, it takes approximately eight hours to journey from Oran to Algiers.

In addition, the new highway will provide better access to the northern part of the country and is expected to stimulate economic development. It also will form part of the 4,349 mi. (7,000 km) Autoroute Transmaghrébine that will eventually link five North African countries.

International groups and more than 60 companies from Japan, Germany, China, France, Portugal, Italy and the United States submitted 15 bids for the project, a prime example of multi-national competition and ultimately cooperation.

The contract for construction of the 105 mi. (169 km) central and 223 mi. (359 km) western sections at a cost of $451 million was won by a Chinese consortium, based in Hong Kong and made up of China Rail Construction Corporation (CRCC) and China International Trust and Investment Corporation (CITIC).

While Chinese construction workers have been increasingly evident in Algiers for the past couple of years, according to the People’s Daily, this highway is the largest Chinese foreign venture to date.

Dessau-Soprin Inc., based in Montreal, Quebec, will cooperate with Autoroutes du Sud de la France (South of France Highways or ASF) in assisting Algeria’s Angence Nationale des Autoroutes (National Highways Agency or ANA) with project management. Tecsult Inc., also headquartered in Montreal, was responsible for the design of a 62 mi. (100 km) stretch of the highway.


Control of Equipment

The highway’s 248-mi. (399 km) eastern section will cost more than $5 billion to construct. This stretch is being built by Hong Kong based COJAAL (Japanese Consortium for Algerian Highways), made up of five construction companies headquartered in Tokyo — Kajima Corporation, Nishimatsu Construction Company, Itochu Corporation, Hazama Corporation and Taisei Corporation.

Topcon Positioning Systems Inc., (TPS), based in Livermore, Calif., had its surveying and machine control instruments chosen for this section of the highway. The company has supplied 50 measurement systems equipped with AT-G2 levels and DT-207L theodolites as well as close to 100 3D control systems for use on graders, pavers, trenchers and dozers being used on the job.

Along with the optical measuring systems, TPS also received the largest order in industry history for three dimensional satellite machine control systems for the project. In addition, the company is providing training and support for this equipment, with a supervisor on-site during construction and other employees either temporarily based in Algeria or on call to support either task as needed.

Approximately 80 percent of the construction equipment in use on the project was manufactured by Caterpillar. The other 20 percent is Komatsu equipment.

“Three dimensional satellite-based machine control utilizes navigation signals transmitted from the United States GPS and Russian GLONASS navigation systems to calculate a precise position on the earth,” said Jason Killpack, Topcon senior product marketing manager.

“These systems are used for manual measurement as well as for full hydraulic machine automation and when integrated into an off-highway construction machine are capable of automatically controlling the hydraulically driven cutting blades and surfaces of the equipment. Design, elevation, position and cross slope data are all calculated in real time and automatically adjusted on the machine.”

Advantages for Construction

Adoption of this technology is vastly more productive in real terms for the project and the contractor performing the work, in contrast to more traditional measurement methods, such as manual grade staking and stringline guidance. This type of system can be installed on most off-highway construction equipment such as motorgraders, dozers, excavators, trimmers, curb machines, asphalt and concrete paving machines as well as profilers.

According to Murray Lodge, director of construction sales of Topcon Positioning Systems, the company’s GNSS+ 3D machine control system “provides 72 universal channels that can be configured to simultaneously track up to 36 different satellites.” This information is received not only from American and Russian satellites but also from Galileo, the emerging European Union system.

GNSS measurement systems use satellite signals to calculate their position on the earth. Such coverage is vital for control of machinery working in conditions with minimal sky view, as is experienced in the mountainous terrain of Algeria.

“By using a process called differential correction the system can determine very accurately where it is to within a centimeter or so,” Killpack said. “Differential correction depends on a stationary base receiver transmitting its position to a rover [antenna] mounted in a machine in real time for machine control. It also can by handled by a grade checker for additional measurement and verification.

“Our system compares positions calculated from the satellite systems to the design file that was generated by the engineer for the project,” he continued. “The DTM or digital terrain model is created directly from the original plans for the project, and once in digital form, it is portable from machine to machine with the use of an off-the-shelf compact flash card or USB memory stick.

“With the actual position of the cutting edges of the machine known to the software, the system can make automatic adjustments to the cutting surfaces of the machine in real time, updating their position up to 20 times a second.”

Automatic control of the cutting edge provides immediate implementation of the design grade, even for more complicated sloping or curving areas. Its use avoids time that might otherwise be spent making multiple passes over the same stretch of highway, meaning less fuel is needed to complete the job, and also reduces the need for grade checkers and layout crews. In addition, job safety is enhanced, with operator fatigue reduced and fewer employees in the work zone.

Monument to the Highway

Such is its importance to the country that a monument to its construction, representing a stretch of roadway rising into the sky beyond a cutout of an overpass, has been erected at a point where the provinces of Milla and Constantine meet. Commissioned by COJAAL, the monument inscription records that on April 16, 2007, Algerian President Abdel Aziz Bouteflika “established the first stone for the realization of the East-West Motorway”.

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