Canadian Consulting Engineer

Queenston-Lewiston Bridge 5th Lane

October 1, 2006
By Canadian Consulting Engineer

McCormick Rankin Corporation / Buckland and Taylor

McCormick Rankin Corporation / Buckland and Taylor

The Queenston-Lewiston International Bridge soars 112 metres above the majestic Niagara River, having a total length of 500 metres. When built in 1962, it was the longest hingeless steel arch bridge in the world. It is now counted among North America’s Top 10 Historic Steel Bridges.

Linking Ontario’s Queen Elizabeth Way, Highway 405 and New York State’s I-190, the bridge serves 4.3 million vehicles annually, including one million trucks.

Due to the increased processing times needed to address the security concerns of the U.S., truck queues routinely extended three kilometres west of the Queenston-Lewiston Bridge and periodically extended back eight kilometres along Highway 405 to the Queen Elizabeth Way interchange. Furthermore, the last few years had seen three fatal collisions involving truck queuing on the highway.

The existing bridge cross-section provided for two lanes of traffic in both directions, separated by a raised median.

Consultants’ task

McCormick Rankin Corporation was retained by the Niagara Falls Bridge Commission to plan and design the necessary improvements to the bridge. They were asked to strengthen and widen the bridge to meet current truck loading and seismic requirements. They were also to improve the operational and safety of the crossing to provide for the Canada/U.S. Free and Secure Trade (FAST) program.

McCormick Rankin’s team included sub-consultant Buckland & Taylor of Vancouver, and U.S. sub-consultants William Lettis Associates and Greenman & Pederson

The project involved traffic management over a distance of 12 kilometres and coordinating the approvals of multiple stakeholders, governments and agencies in both countries. Project approvals, design and construction had to fast-tracked. In addition, the impact on the environment had to be minimized.

The first part of the project was to widen and improve the Hwy 405 approaches to the bridge. This $14.5 million contract involved widening Highway 405 with the addition of a 1.8-km long truck queue lane and a 0.85-km long truck express FAST lane, as well as improvements to Highway 405, the Stanley Avenue interchange and Niagara Parkway.

Rehabilitating the bridge

The second contract dealt with rehabilitating the historic bridge itself and the addition of a “fifth lane” within the Canadian Plaza (where the border customs and other administrative buildings are located). This $44.9-million contract included:

* Complete redecking, widening, rehabilitation and reconfiguration of the bridge.

* Major strengthening and a live load upgrade to address multi-lane truck queues.

* An innovative design that retained and retrofitted the approach spans rather than replacing them (as had been recommended in the bridge commission’s preliminary design study). This initiative saved the client over $8 million.

* An innovative seismic retrofit to meet current codes and standards. This included developing a special design load case combining seismic loading with live load to reflect the high probability that the bridge would be fully loaded with traffic during a seismic event.

* New bridge lighting, signage and extensive fibre-optic communications systems.

* State-of-the-art lane control system.

* Traffic maintenance and construction access plans. Cross-border traffic, emergency services, border security and contractor access had to be maintained 24/7.

Eliminating simple spans and expansion joints within the approach spans

The team employed several innovative technical approaches. For example, the new retrofit involved making the new deck composite with the steel spandrel beams, floor beams and stringers. The simple spans and expansion joints were eliminated by introducing a link-slab concept in the deck over the piers and by strengthening the floor beams. Further, the use of seismic isolation bearings dramatically reduced the seismic demands on the lightly reinforced piers and thus avoided major strengthening or replacement of these piers.

Retractable telescopic spandrel bearing jacking beam

The team designed a feature that will pre-empt the need for future traffic closures to inspect or replace the spandrel bearings located between the main span and approach spans. The unique telescoping jacking beam system normally remains hidden and retracted within the approach span girders. When needed the jacking system extends in four locations within the arch span spandrel girders. The beams articulate to accommodate relative rotations between the arch and approach spans.

In record time

Following completion of the Highway 405 widening in 2004, work on the bridge began in December 2004 and was completed in early November 2005 — two weeks ahead of schedule, under budget with a total cost for both contracts of $59.4 million Canadian. The new lane control system has proven to be extremely successful during peak traffic conditions.

The Highway 405 improvements were funded by the Ontario Ministry of Transportation and the Government of Canada. The Queenston-Lewiston Fifth Lane project was funded equally by the Niagara Falls Bridge Commission, Government of Canada and Ontario Ministry of Transportation.

Name of project: Queenston-Lewiston International Bridge Fifth Lane Project

Award-winning firms: McCormick Rankin Corporation, Mississauga, Ont. – prime consultant / Buckland and Taylor, Vancouver – structural engineering specialist. (MRC: Dr. Roy Skelton, P.Eng., Doug Dixon, P.Eng., Doug MacLean, P.Eng., Jack Thompson, Philip Wu, P.Eng., Ben Hui, P.Eng.) (B&T: Roman Cap, P.Eng., Dr. Steve Zhu, P.Eng., Jorge Torrejon, P.Eng., Sergiu Aroneanu, P.Eng.)

Owner: Niagara Falls Bridge Commission

Subconsultants: Greenman Pedersen (U.S. civil works); William Lettis & Assoc. (seismic hazard assessment); Applied Research Assoc. (bridge pavement design/geotechnical); Golder Associates (Hwy 405 geotechnical).

Suppliers: Rankin Construction, Goodco


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