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Bridge safety should become a key US concern

First publishedin World Highways
April2018
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The new cable-stayed bridge consists of a 170m-high twin-tower with a front span of around 240m and a back span of 120m
The Canadian city’s replacement Champlain Bridge will open on schedule at the end of the year.


Montreal, one of Canada’s largest cities, will have a well-earned Christmas present in December when the new Champlain Bridge opens after 42 months of construction.

The new bridge, part of a six-lane 6km corridor including roads, is being built alongside the original bridge over the Saint Lawrence River and Seaway canal system. The new bridge, 3.4km long, runs from the île des Soeurs to Brossard, immediately downstream from the existing Champlain Bridge.

“What I can tell you… is that the objective remains to deliver the bridge in December 2018,” said Annie-Claire Fournier, a spokesperson for the consortium, Signature on the Saint Lawrence.

Cost of the entire corridor project is set at US$3.3 billion of which around $1.8 billion is for construction of the bridge, approach roads and highway adjustments.

Failure to open the bridge to vehicular traffic on time means the consortium faces stiff fines, according to media reports: around $77,500 a day for the first seven days followed by $310,000 per day.

The federal Canadian government signed a public-private partnership deal with the SNC-Lavalin consortium Signature on the Saint Lawrence Group in mid-2015 for the group to design, build, finance and maintain the New Champlain Bridge Corridor project. SNC-Lavalin is a 50% partner in SSL which will operate and maintain the bridge until October 2049. Other SSL partners are Hochtief, Flatiron, Dragados Canada and Grupo ACS.

Meanwhile, SSL entered into a date-certain, fixed-priced contract of approximately $2.15 billion with a construction joint venture of which SNC-Lavalin is again a 50% partner.

SSL and the Canadian government also appointed as overseeing independent engineer the Danish group Ramboll and Canadian engineering firm Stantec, based in Edmonton in the province of Alberta. Ramboll said that a team of its designers from the UK and Denmark has been working with a team from Stantec to ensure the project is delivered in compliance with performance criteria. This includes examining design documents, supervision plans and the management and quality control system.

According to some of the design engineers, the project was always going to be challenging not just because of the deadline. It coincides with other major roadworks, including on the current Champlain Bridge, the Turcot Interchange and the Bonaventure Expressway. Contractor have added more shifts as the completion deadline approaches.

Other challenges surfaced over the months, with around 2,500 defects discovered in some prefabricated parts and within the road sections, although these were eventually put right.

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New bridge rises beside the old 1960s structure
Construction of the existing steel truss cantilever bridge, as well as accompanying approaches and the Bonaventure Expressway, started in 1957 and finished in 1962. Total cost of the project was $40 million, of which the bridge accounted for around $27 million.


Of the old 14.5km-long complex, the bridge measures 7.4km. Every year, around 50 million vehicles cross the old bridge, Canada’s most heavily travelled bridge and a major route for traffic to and from the US. Around $16 billion worth of goods are estimated to pass over the bridge. But the increasing traffic, combined with damage from road salt on the steel and concrete, and other factors, meant a new bridge was essential.

Federal infrastructure minister Amarjeet Sohi recently said the Canadian government has commissioned a study of how much it would cost to keep the existing 56-year-old Champlain Bridge open to traffic beyond 2018.

The new composite girder bridge across the river and Seaway consists of a 170m-high twin-tower cable stay section with a front span of around 240m and a back span of 120m, approaches will be constructed with a total length of 3.1km.

The corridor-wide project also includes construction of a new 470m bridge for L’Île-des-Sœurs, the widening of Highway 15 and improvements to various highway ramps leading to the bridges.

Because winters are brutally cold and snowy in the province of Quebec, two so-called superdomes were built on the end of the West Jetty on Nun’s Island. These protected and heated areas house what amounts to an assembly line for preparation of the 74 transition segments. These provide the interface between the pier caps and pier legs and are made in Spain. Preparation of the hollow steel shells involves adding rebar, embedded elements and post tensioning ducts.

The piece is then transferred to the temperature-controlled segment nursery, ready for the pouring of concrete. The segment is moved to another area of the plant where it is rotated to optimise the concrete’s quality, notably in the anchor heads.

Finally, the steel-and-concrete component is stored outside as it awaits installation. Assembly of the segments is expected to be finished by this spring.

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