A $32-million project to replace a key bridge in the Alberta capital could be delayed up to one year after four 40-tonne steel girders mysteriously buckled.
The safety hazard posed by the twisted metal means a major commuter route underneath the 102 Avenue Bridge must remain closed until further notice, perhaps for a few weeks, in addition to part of the avenue which has been shut down since July.
"Under the city’s oversight, several engineering teams are investigating the situation to determine exactly what went wrong here,” Barry Belcourt, manager of Edmonton's road design and construction branch, said Monday.
"Right now nothing is going to fall down because it is all bolted in place and cranes are still holding pieces in place."
No one was injured.
Belcourt said investigators are reviewing the bridge design, materials used, the construction process and environmental conditions for clues.
Crews started installing the girders Friday night, bolting them in place after they were put in position with cranes, but work was temporarily suspended Saturday night due to what Belcourt called extreme winds.
Crews were working on the girders Monday morning when some of them buckled without warning, he said.
"All of a sudden four of them bent simultaneously."
How long it will take to get the project back on track will depend on what is learned from the review into why the girders buckled, Belcourt said.
The city needs to determine if more cranes are needed, if the girders can be repaired on site or if crews have to take the bridge apart and start over.
"In the worst-case scenario, if the steel can't be repaired, it could delay the overall project by a year."
Belcourt said the delay is likely to add to the project's cost.
It will also create more traffic headaches, admitted Mayor Don Iveson.
"I feel for the commuters ... who've already been dealing with the delays and that's only going to get worse ... for the foreseeable future while the road remains closed," he said.
But Iveson also said he isn't worried about the safety of Edmonton's bridges in general.
"Everything is very regularly inspected and bridges are the ... highest priority pieces of infrastructure we have for safety and maintenance, so I have no reason to be concerned about any other structures.
"I don't know what went wrong here, but at least we caught it — whatever it is — at the construction stage.
— With files from CHED
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