Repairs to the Champlain Bridge will involve a new type of reinforcement to deal with growing problems with corrosion in the bridge’s deck.
In 2012, there will be at least that many weekend closings, maybe more, said Glen Carlin, general manager of the Jacques Cartier and Champlain Bridges Inc.
Carlin was speaking at a media briefing he said is part of a new effort by the federal agency to reassure the public about safety and to be more transparent about the state of the Champlain.
In 2011, $33.3 million (C$) was spent on Champlain repairs, including the repaving of 2.75 kilometres, the replacement of five expansion joints and the reinforcement of several girders and piers.
In 2012, the tab will be $34 million (C$), including 700 metres of repaving and four new expansion joints.
For the first time in 2012, repairs may be done in winter, but they will not affect traffic because they will take place under the bridge, Carlin said.
In the past, reinforcement work involved adding high strength steel cables along the outside edge of the bridge.
Now, work will also involve installing steel cables transversally under the bridge.
“The beams on the bridge are all knit together” with transverse cables, Carlin said. “These cables are starting to get affected by corrosion.” The new cables “will reinstate this transverse posttensioning.”
In 2012, there will be a lot more work on two adjacent federally owned stretches: The Bonaventure Expressway, between the Champlain and the Lachine Canal. The government will spend $11 million, up from $7.2 million.
Highway 15, between the Champlain and Atwater Ave. Ottawa will spend $19 million, almost five times the $4.2 million spent this year. This hike is because of major repairs to Champlain approaches.
A 2010 inspection report obtained by The Gazette last month showed that two overpasses on the Montreal approach to the Champlain are in “mediocre” condition, their concrete crumbling and reinforcement steel corroding. One overpass must be replaced while the other must undergo major repairs.
In addition, the report said a secondary span known as the Nuns’ Island Bridge is deteriorating “very quickly” and requires major repairs.
The Champlain is decaying prematurely because it was not designed to withstand the use of road salt. Because of its unusual design, Ottawa says it would be too expensive and disruptive to traffic to repair it for the long term.
In 2009, Ottawa began a 10-year, $212-million program to repair the Champlain until a new span is built.
This year, another $158 million was added – $27 million for the Champlain, the rest for Highway 15 and the Bonaventure.
The work will extend the life of the structures until 2021. Ottawa says it hopes to have a $3-billion replacement bridge in place by then.
“If the bridge is going to be late by a year or two, we will do what would have to be done to make sure that the existing bridge can be extended by that type of duration,” Carlin said.
“More than that, it’s kind of like planning for something we shouldn’t be planning for. The goal is to get the new bridge in place within the next 10 years.”
A 2010 study warned the Champlain was so dilapidated there was a risk of a partial bridge collapse.
Major repairs have been done since then and the Champlain is monitored closely, Carlin said.
“We are fully confident in its safety. We wanted to show everything that we’re doing to ensure that any risks that are out there on the bridge are being managed,” he said.
“If there’s any doubt regarding safety, we’ll take any measures that are required,” he added, including closing lanes or the entire bridge.
The bridge is crucial for commuters and the transportation of goods. It’s used by about 160,000 vehicles daily, including 14,400 trucks and 400 public-transit buses