“It's a very bad idea”: the MTQ is building a new bridge… on old pillars

“It’s a very bad idea”: the MTQ is building a new bridge... on old pillars

MISE À DAY

The Ministry of Transport is building a brand new bridge on old foundations, which will have to be redone within 25 years.

With an estimated cost worth nearly $200 million, the repair of the Pie-IX bridge, which connects Montreal and Laval, is one of the most important projects underway at the MTQ. 

When it launched the project in 2019, the ministry chose to redo the deck of the bridge (the portion on which vehicles circulate), while preserving the foundations which date from 1966.

However, according to a 2015 internal report obtained by our Bureau of Investigation, MTQ experts recommended the complete reconstruction of the bridge, specifying that it would not be much more expensive than redoing only the deck. 

This would have resulted in a “completely new” bridge, with an estimated service life of “75 years”, “compliant with current standards” and “low maintenance cost”, noted the report. < /p>

Problems quickly

But this is not the choice that was made, a situation that is absurd in the eyes of the Professional Association of Engineers of the Government of Quebec, which is currently on strike.

“From one point Engineering-wise, that's a very bad idea. We are doing a project of more than $100 million on foundations that have a lifespan of between 0 and 20 years. We risk having problems from the start of the life of the bridge,” says its president, Marc-André Martin.

The ministry judges that “the state of the piles did not require their complete reconstruction”.

“An intervention could be required on the foundation units of the piles within a horizon of 25 years”, recognizes the carrier. word of the MTQ, Gilles Payer.

But according to state engineers, this is a “very bad management decision”. “It is very complex to redo foundation units below a deck. It will increase the costs tenfold,” believes Mr. Martin.

He laments that the ministry went “against the advice of the engineers” to “speed up the project”.

“There were criteria from the start not to work in the river [ therefore on the foundations] to avoid the stages of constraining environmental authorizations. This is the typical case of political orders,” he says.

Unreinforced concrete

Another engineer's report, which dates of 2011, specifies that it is important not to increase the weight of the deck to comply with the standards in the event of an earthquake.

Indeed, the piers of the bridge are considered to be “unreinforced” concrete because of the low presence of metal in the structure. 

The union claims that it is a another recommendation not followed.

“The foundation units do not meet Canadian highway bridge standards. On the plans, it is indicated that the project is not resistant to [major] earthquakes”, underlines Marc-André Martin. 

The MTQ claims that “the design provides for seismic response improvements” without specifying whether it would meet current standards.   

  • The engineers of the Quebec government resumed their strike on Wednesday, which began on April 22. The increase in remuneration is at the heart of the dispute.    

Cracks and pieces coming off  

According to the most recent inspection report of the Pie-IX bridge, in 2018, several piles (in photo) had cracks qualified as “medium” or “significant”. There are also pieces of concrete coming off. However, their condition is considered “acceptable”, which motivated the ministry to keep them.

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