The Evolution of Highway Infrastructure Projects

Updated: May 16

Life is a highway. No, really.

If we look at the pattern of highway infrastructure over the course of history, we can see how highway construction has evolved to account for the way we live our lives.

The adoption of HOV lanes, access ramps, digital overhead signage, bridges, wildlife crossings, temporary construction barriers… All of these things are representative of the types of highways we need to adapt to our way of life in modern society.

Government rules and regulations have also changed to reflect how our highways are used. Accommodations for speed limits, construction zones, bus and transit lanes, emergency services, snow removal, drainage, lighting, and other considerations, all need to be factored into how a modern highway is designed.

A highway also needs to be clearly marked with appropriate signage before, during, and after any project so that motorists can continue to use it safely throughout the construction phase.

The Evolution of the Modern Highway

As highways have evolved, so has the complexity of highway design and infrastructure. Highway infrastructure projects usually come about as a result of the need for additions or changes to the way the highway handles traffic. Some good examples of recent highway works are the Link 427 highway expansion project, the restoration of the Don Valley Parkway, or the addition of an HOV lane to the Don Valley Parkway in Toronto. As the number of cars on the highway increased, accommodations needed to be made for travellers who were willing to carpool or take public transit.

The HOV lane was created as an incentive for travellers to carpool when possible to save on the number of vehicles on the road.

The logistics required to handle a highway infrastructure project are complex and intensive. Some of them take many years to come to fruition, given the necessity for federal, provincial, and municipal approvals, requests for proposals, environmental considerations, and other factors. Once construction begins, the project may still take several years to complete, depending on the complexity of the project and other extenuating factors.

While a highway infrastructure project is taking place, accommodations need to be made to ensure the safety of the people working on the project. Temporary construction barriers need to be placed, special temporary signage needs to be created and posted, and in some cases, dedicated lanes need to be built so that traffic can continue to flow throughout the construction process.

All of these aspects need to be managed and planned accordingly. People may not realize how much forethought is required to properly conduct a highway infrastructure project, but rest assured that many projects require months, if not years of organization and planning to account for all possible factors.

The Future of Highway Infrastructure

As we look to the future, highway infrastructure is going to arguably become even more complex. The challenges we face today will be very different ten years from now. Traffic management and sustainability are just two of a long list of issues to deal with when it comes to developing future road infrastructure projects. What will remain the same, however, is the need for thorough organization and planning to ensure the safety of motorists and construction workers as these projects take place. Safety will remain the main priority underlying any road construction project.

After all, life is a highway.

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