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Delays Challenge Montreal Bridge Construction

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

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Construction of Montreal’s Champlain Bridge, a structure designed to last 125 years, is facing a delay of its opening date due to harsh conditions, and those responsible for building the bridge are now facing penalties as a result.

The $3.1 billion project, replacing the old bridge that originally opened in 1962, features an asymmetrical cable-stayed span, as well as another 5 kilometers (just over 3 miles) of highway improvements, according to The Engineering News-Record.

Champlain Bridge History

The original bridge, a steel truss cantilever structure, spans the St. Lawrence River and Seaway, and is located between the Honoré Mercier and Victoria bridges.

The 6-kilometer-long bridge cost $35 million to build, with Atlas Construction Company Limited awarded the contract to build the four piers supporting the steel structure in one section. The largest contract, totaling $8.319 million, went to three companies that formed a partnership known as MKD: McNamara (Quebec) Limited, The Key Construction Inc. and Deschamps & Bélanger Limitée, for the construction of the piers in another section, as well as a 8,096-foot-long structure in the same section.

The original Champlain Bridge was also something of a first for Canada: This was the first major project for the country in which prestressed concrete girders with Freyssinet tension cables were used to give the structure additional strength. The bridge deteriorated due to deicing salts and inefficient drainage. Guy Mailhot, chief engineer with project owner Infrastructure Canada, noted that it cost the firm $100 million annually just to maintain the old structure.

Work on the new bridge has been beset by weather problems, a change in government and a crane operators’ strike, according to ENR. A consortium composed of SNC-Lavalin, ACS and Hochtief, known as Signature on the Saint Lawrence, is spearheading the work. T.Y. Lin International partnered with SNC-Lavalin and International Bridge Technologies to spearhead project design.

New Bridge Project

Upon completion, the bridge (now named the Samuel de Champlain Bridge, in honor of the French explorer) will be equipped with two three-lane corridors for traffic; a two-lane transit corridor; and a separate path for pedestrians and cyclists.

However, the project's multiple setbacks are now catching up. According to Daniel Genest, project director with SSL, the team had a 42-month schedule, but only 30 months of good weather. June’s 16-day crane operator strike also had an effect on construction progress.

Where the new bridge is located, connecting South Shore suburbs to Montreal, has also proven to be a challenge: A dike separates the structure from the Saint Lawrence Seaway, and bridge piers have to accommodate the challenge.

According to ENR, to compensate for time, the team made a choice in late 2017 to relocate the main span’s deck closure joint to allow for the erection of the east and west banks. Once the closure joint was moved further west, workers were able to erect the main span from both sides, noted Marwan Nader, senior vice president with T.Y. Lin International. This left a 50-meter cantilever from the first east pier that that could not be supported with temporary shoring due to a no construction restriction in place to keep the channel open.

“We decided to support the cantilever with a king post tower, with temporary stays anchored at the second east pier and at segments MS12 and MS13,” said Nader. “Effectively, the east cantilever was supported by a temporary cable-stayed bridge.” The closure joint is slated to be completed after the holiday season.

With the Dec. 21 deadline missed, SNC-Lavalin, ACS and Hochtief are now facing penalties from Infrastructure Canada. The bridge is currently slated for completion by this summer.


Tagged categories: Bridges; Infrastructure; NA; North America; Program/Project Management; Project Management

Comment from Mark Taylor, (1/2/2019, 8:18 AM)

Never start a land war in Asia, and never build a bridge in Canada. Two rules to live by.

Comment from Tony Rangus, (1/2/2019, 10:50 AM)

Samuel de Champlain Bridge. Would not that be a bit of irony. How many indigenous Iroquois did he kill with his Huron & Algonquin best buddies. How much indigenous peoples land did he appropriate. Seems odd in a superior liberal Canadian province. Wonder what would happen if here in the USA we tried to build a Christopher Columbus Bridge!!!

Comment from Michael Halliwell, (1/2/2019, 11:27 AM)

Tony, considering some of the protests in the US and Canada over the exploitation of Indigenous Peoples, I'm surprised there haven't been protests over this name already myself.

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