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Miraculous reports of Ontario bridges “improving”!

While Ontario's Auditor General praised the province for establishing comprehensive standards for inspecting i...


While Ontario’s Auditor General praised the province for establishing comprehensive standards for inspecting its bridges, he is concerned that in practice structures are not being examined thoroughly enough.

Auditor General Jim McCarter’s 2009 Annual Report issued December 7 noted that a bridge examination should typically take at least two to three hours, but his office found that the bridge inspectors were often doing four or five inspections a day. On 36 occasions, one inspector examined more than 10 bridge structures per day.

The inspection manual also requires a detailed visual close-up examination of each structural element, which would normally require closing lanes. However, the Auditor General found there had been no closures for inspections for the past three years.

Moreover, McCarter found it surprising that instead of deteriorating over time, the inspectors records indicated that the condition of 300 of the bridges had actually improved — miraculously defying the laws of physics!

The Auditor General’s harshest criticism was that the Ministry of Transportation had no plans to make repairs to 180 provincial bridges that its own inspectors had found were in critical need of repair within a year.

In total Ontario has 14,800 bridges, of which the province owns 2,800. The Auditor General’s comments above refer to the provincially owned bridges, but he is even more concerned about the remaining 12,000 bridges, which are owned by the municipalities. He noted that the province has no information on them and there is no legislation to ensure the municipalities carry out biannual inspections, “leaving a potential road-safety issue for all Ontarians.”