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Canadian Bridge Collapses Hours After Opening

Monday, September 24, 2018

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A new bridge built in the rural municipality of Clayton, Saskatchewan, collapsed only six hours after it was opened on Friday (Sept. 14), according to reports. Customary investigation methods used to determine riverbed stability were allegedly not used before construction began.

Duane Hicks, the town's Reeve (a title equivalent to president of council) said the Dyck Memorial Bridge looked okay to take on traffic the morning it was opened, noting that he thought the contractor and engineer did everything right. In his eyes, the bridge failure was “an act of God.”

Bridge Collapse

According to Global News, Hicks suspects that something must have given way beneath the bridge, which caused the collapse. "It seems like something under the riverbed let go and a row of pilings sunk," he said. "I don't know who to blame but I figure God built most of this for us."

The issue seems to be with five underwater pilings, all of which went straight down. "So something tells me that something underneath the ground happened. I don't know what it was. They don't know what it was. Nobody knows what it is."

No one was injured during the incident. The silver lining is that taxpayers will not have to pay for a new $325,000 CAD (roughly $251,000) bridge because the failed span was still under warranty; Inertia, the company responsible for engineering the bridge, will replace it on its own dime.

Geotechnical Investigation

According to the reeve, a geotechnical study of the riverbed wasn’t completed prior to the bridge being built. Inertia declined to answer calls from the media related to the incident.

Hicks told the CBC that that kind of survey work wasn't done because it wasn’t possible to do it under the river, but industry professionals he has spoken with since have reported that they have used just that technique. Hicks was not sure if Inertia drilled holes on the shore, which is part of testing soil samples for the survey, before beginning work on the project.

Paul Gauvreau, a bridge-building expert from the University of Toronto, disputed the reeve’s claim, calling the choice to not conduct the survey “irregular,” going on to note that that kind of investigative work was “done all the time.”

"Perhaps for smaller bridges you can get by with a less extensive geotechnical program, but generally speaking you're going to have at least one test hole at the location of every pier, including piers in the water," Gauvreau told CBC.

Hicks did acknowledge that while it was possible drilling could be done under the riverbed, it would be costly, which in his view was hard to justify for a bridge that would see roughly 1,000 vehicles annually. Gauvreau disputed this too, saying that the cost, while not insignificant, was not something that could be skimped out on.  

To determine what caused the failure, bridge builder Can-Struct Systems Inc. recently hired an independent firm to perform tests. The new bridge is expected to be completed in the next three to four weeks.

The previous bridge was in place for more than 50 years, according to Global News. The Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities inspected the span earlier this year and found that it was rotting and needed to be replaced.


Tagged categories: Accidents; Bridges; Government; Health & Safety; Infrastructure; NA; North America; Project Management

Comment from john lienert, (9/24/2018, 7:38 AM)

what a bunch of "numb-skulls"

Comment from Luc N. Turenne, (9/24/2018, 10:37 AM)

Kudos to the lowest bidder system

Comment from Michael Halliwell, (9/25/2018, 11:22 AM)

Don't think it was "numb-skulls" or a lowest bidder failure....I think this is a simple case of making assumptions. There was a bridge there before, so we don't need to do a geotechnical investigation to put a new one there. Not the first time assumptions have bit someone in the butt, and won't be the last...but certainly a very visual example of the consequences.

Comment from Tony Munson, (10/1/2018, 10:11 AM)

When all else fails, just blame God !

Comment from Jeffrey Smith, (12/26/2018, 7:29 AM)

I think there should/will be more evidence of what caused the failure. Root cause: God did it. That only works for insurance companies.

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