Canadian Consulting Engineer

Repercussions flow from Laval overpass collapse

October 27, 2006
By Canadian Consulting Engineer

The demolition of the overpass on Highway 19 in Laval, Quebec, which collapsed September 30 and killed six people, ...

The demolition of the overpass on Highway 19 in Laval, Quebec, which collapsed September 30 and killed six people, is under way. The head of the public inquiry into the disaster gave permission for the dismantling to continue after the structure was examined by an expert team.
The inquiry also ordered the demolition of a second overpass, the de Blois overpass, also on Highway 19, which is reportedly identical in construction and design to the fallen structure. Both are on Highway 19 and were built in 1971 by Inter State Paving Inc. and designed by the same consulting engineering company.
The newspaper La Presse said its sources had suggested the problem with the collapsed bridge was that the rebar had not been positioned properly by the contractor. However, the Quebec Transport Ministry refused to comment until the commission’s report are released, due next March. Head of the inquiry is former provincial premier Pierre Marc Johnson, with structural engineer Roger Nicolet and Armand Couture. The latter two are both former presidents of the Quebec Order of Engineers.
In the meantime, the reactions to the collapse have continued to reverberate.
In an effort to reassure Quebec motorists, the Quebec Ministry of Transport posted a list of 19 overpasses, most in the Montreal area, that it says “have design elements similar to those of the La Concorde Boulevard overpass” and that have been inspected.
Nova Scotia’s chief engineer decided to review that province’s overpasses and found one in the Halifax region that it wants examining. It is paying SNC-Lavalin $30,000 to inspect a structure on the Bedford Highway that was built in the 1950s and has the first prestressed girders in the province.
The Canadian Council of Professional Engineers issued a press release in the wake of the Laval bridge tragedy, saying that it reinforced their calls for a more sustained government approach to infrastructure. Chief Executive Office of CCPE, Marie Lemay, ing., said, “It is unfortunate that it takes events such as that of September 30 to get Canadians to pay attention to issues such as infrastructure renewal and maintenance. Our thoughts are with the families of the victims. … Hopefully this tragic event did not happen in vain and we, as a society, will learn from it and make the conscious decision to reinvest in infrastructure using a long-term, holistic approach as well as life-cycle management guidelines.”
The Montreal Gazette had some biting comments about apportioning blame and financial reparations. On October 15, the editors wrote: “Experts say that it can ultimately be very difficult to assign and apportion blame in an accident like this one. No doubt there are lots of factors to consider and no doubt some information will not be retrievable.
“But someone is responsible for this disaster that killed five people. If that someone is in the private sector, there should be financial implications; taxpayers should not have to pay for rebuilding. Other legal actions, civil and criminal, could also be possible.”
The editorial also lamented the fact that the Quebec Ministry of Transport had limited documentation on the project. The inquiry has already recommended that the ministry should keep all paperwork for big infrastructure projects.


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