Canadian Consulting Engineer

Tragic collapse of 1970s era overpass in Laval sparks inquiry

If consulting engineers needed any justification for arguing that Canada's road infrastructure is in a poor state o...

October 2, 2006   Canadian Consulting Engineer

If consulting engineers needed any justification for arguing that Canada’s road infrastructure is in a poor state of repair and needs an infusion of investment, they were handed it on Saturday lunchtime — but in dire and tragic circumstances.
A 36-year old overpass over Highway 19 in Laval, north of Montreal, fell and killed six people on Saturday. Five of those were in a car passing underneath the overpass. Several more people were badly injured.
A 20-metre section of three lanes on the eastbound section of the Boulevard do la Concorde overpass gave way at around 12.30 p.m. An hour earlier people had seen pieces of concrete and debris fall off the structure and reported it to the police. A Quebec Ministry of Transport official had come to inspect the structure but decided there was no imminent danger.
The overpass was built in 1970 and carries 19,000 vehicles on an average workday. After its collapse the Quebec Transport Ministry decided to close an identical bridge built during the same period that was nearby, as well as another similar one in Outremont, Montreal. Traffic line-ups of commuters trying to get into Montreal stretched back for kilometres on Monday morning.
People at the Ministry of Transport spent day and night after the collapse poring over the designs of Quebec’s highway overpasses. They immediately identified 20 similar structures to the one that collapsed that would be given a detailed review.
Quebec’s Ministry of Public Security has announced that it will hold a public enquiry into the cause of the collapse, and that the enquiry must issue its report and recommendations by June 2007.
The Quebec government said it is spending $200 million on road repairs this year.
A Globe and Mail report quoted A. Ghani Razaqpur, an engineering professor at McMaster University and President of the Canadian Society for Civil Engineering. He suggested the structure “might have succumbed to a combination of wear-and-tear and corrosion of the steel reinforcement bars inside the concrete.”

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