Canadian Consulting Engineer

Quebec overpass collapse inquiry hears confusing testimony

The official inquiry into the collapse of the Concorde overpass in Laval, Quebec resumed May 14 after a two-week br...

May 14, 2007   Canadian Consulting Engineer

The official inquiry into the collapse of the Concorde overpass in Laval, Quebec resumed May 14 after a two-week break. The overpass collapsed on Highway 19 suddenly last September 20and killed five people. The inquiry into what might have caused the concrete structure to fail is being held in Montreal.
So far, according to reports in the CBC and Montreal Gazette, testimony has been confused and conflicting. In early May, Tiona Sanogo, the senior government engineer from Transport Quebec who was in charge of carrying out repairs on the overpass in 1992, said he had ordered repairs to the steel reinforcing after observing that the reinforcing had not been properly installed in the original construction back in 1970. However, DIMS, the company doing the repairs in 1992, said the transport ministry had not ordered them to install new reinforcing bars.
The previous day, Sanogo had given what appeared to be conflicting testimony by observing that he had not noticed any structural defects while assessing the repairs.
An earlier witness in the proceedings was Marcel Dubois, a retired engineer formerly with Desjardins Sauriol. He oversaw the construction of the overpass in the 1970s, but said at one point he was in charge of the surface roads, and could not remember who was in charge of the overpass construction.
Quebec Transportation says it is likely that the commission proceedings will continue until June or July. The commission is to hear from a number of people and organizations, including Desjardins Sauriol, Inter State Paving, the Ministry of Transport of Quebec and the city of Laval. Intervenor status has been granted to the Professional Association of Engineers of the Government of Quebec, the Coalition for the Maintenance and Reconstruction of the Road Network of Quebec, and the Quebec Order of Professional Engineers (OIQ).
Pierre Marc Johnson, lawyer, physician and former premier of Quebec (1985), is leading the commission, along with two senior engineers: Armand Couture (formerly of SNC-Lavalin) and Roger Nicolet.
Johnson’s appointment as head of the commission of inquiry caused some controversy because of his past government role and political affiliations with the Parti Quebecois. An editorial in the Montreal Gazette dated October 4, 2006, made this point: “Many Quebecers suspect negligence toward our crumbling infrastructure by successive PQ and Liberal governments is the culprit … Is Johnson willing to blame, if such is his conclusion, the government he headed briefly and in which he was an influential cabinet minister for such a long time? Conversely, if his honest finding is that Liberal governments are to blame, will he be accused of partisan sniping?
The commission’s report is supposed to be due by October 2007.


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