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Arterial Thoroughfares: Foundation is key


Whether it is smooth driving on a recently paved highway, crossing a majestic bridge over water, or riding a brand new commuter rail to work, these resilient arterial thoroughfares inspire one to ponder about the incredible endeavour that went into their conception and construction. How did it all begin and what makes these structures stand the test of time?

WSP’s senior geotechnical engineer Fanyu Zhu would argue that it all begins with the foundation, as without a strong foundation on which to build, nothing would prevail against the effects of nature.

Based in Toronto, Fanyu’s highly sought-after expertise is in pile foundation and weak ground improvement, and his projects often begin with a detailed study and understanding of the soil at hand. Backed by a team of more than 80 specialists across the country—whose expertise ranges from geotechnical engineering to inspection testing—the geotechnical team at WSP is one of the most comprehensive you’ll find in Canada.

With several major projects in Ontario under their belt, Fanyu and his team boast the ability to provide a wealth of engineering expertise under one roof, quality services at a fair pricing, and a continuous, quick and effective communication between the design and constructions teams, vital pillars of any successful projects.

Notable projects

Fanyu’s team has worked on various pile driving and ground improvement projects from Metrolinx Railway facilities to other private sector projects in Buildings. Of the extensive list, Fanyu reminisces about the 2011 to 2015 Metrolinx projects which presented a unique technical challenge.

“The 30-metre deep piling of the Metrolinx’s Black Creek Drive Bridge was part of the 2012 to 2013 geotechnical services, collaborating with AECOM who was the project manager,” he said, “and in 2011 to 2015, they retained us to do engineering consulting and geotechnical investigation for Metrolinx East Rail Maintenance Facility (ERMF) project in Whitby. That is when we came across soft soil, and had to consolidate it in order to complete the project.”


Wick Drains installed for the ERMF Project


“Wick drains and surcharge fill were adopted to consolidate the soft ground for the railway yard facilities in order to control the post-construction settlement. This had been proven to be a very cost-effective method that helped meet the construction schedule requirement, compared to the removal of the soft soil and replacement with engineered fill,” Fanyu said.

WSP’s Ontario group offers nine key fields of speciality: geotechnical, hydrogeology, environmental, materials inspection and testing services, as well as instrumentation and monitoring. It also advises on pavement engineering, concrete technology, building science and natural science.

Pile Installation of Bolton By-Pass Project


Fanyu also led the pile installation of the Bolton By-Pass on Ontario’s Highway 50 in 2013-2014. This, too, was a technical feat, with 290 piles installed. The team had found that the soil conditions changed significantly in just a few metres and had to come up with a plan to install piles going in to variable depths of 35 to 60 metres.

“We had to install piles very deep at some locations and then a few metres away, we would need to stop a pile to half the depth. The bearing capacity of the piles immediately after installation was well below the design value, so we had to wait a few weeks to allow the piles to gain capacity with time, which was proven by field PDA testing. It was a challenge, but we were able to use our expertise and knowledge to get things done properly,” he explained.

Most recently, Fanyu and his team completed a two-year geotechnical investigation on the Metrolinx Lakeshore East Rail Corridor Expansion project from Scarborough to Pickering, Ontario, with 13 kilometres of track additions to the existing railway. The project includes three-grade separations and widening of three water crossing bridges. The widening of 10-metre-high embankments on weak ground of loose and peat deposits requires geotechnical experience and expertise to deal with the settlement problems associated with the new track as well as the existing adjacent tracks. “We have come up with good solutions,” said Fanyu.

People at the heart of success

“We have a very strong team in Canada,” Fanyu commented with pride, “our team is exceptional because of the skilled individuals that focus on solutions.” High-quality expertise and people who are always willing to help one another is the team’s greatest strength, according to the senior geotechnical engineer. He added, “There will always be challenges and issues that come up on a project, but the key to success is the willingness to work as a team to address them.”

For more information, please contact Fanyu Zhu