One year before work is due to finish on the US$3.3bn New Champlain Bridge over the St Lawrence Seaway in Montréal, workers have had to make more than 2,000 repairs to defective elements of its structure, according to a report yesterday in newspaper Le Journal de Montréal.
Among the problems discovered on the large public-private scheme were incomplete or missing welds, misaligned holes on steel elements and cracked or porous plates. Most of the problems were found with elements imported from Spain.
Engineers who commented anonymously to the Journal said some problems on a project the size of the new Champlain bridge were inevitable, but the number detected was surprising.Â
But a spokesperson for the Canadian-European consortium building the bridge denied any serious problems and said the consortium itself would bear any costs of alleged shoddy work.
The bridge is being built alongside the existing Champlain bridge by a consortium called Signature on the Saint Lawrence, made up of Canadian contractor SNC-Lavalin, Spain’s ACS and its subsidiaries Hochtief, Flatiron and Dragados.
Daniel Genest, the consortium’s director of co-ordination, told reporters yesterday (4 December) that quality issues were under control.
He said there were in fact 3,000 reports of non-conformity related to parts of the project so far, of which 2,500 were related to the bridge and 500 to a portion of Highway 15 that is being rebuilt.
However, he added that only 82 parts had been identified as having major defects, and the number of parts discovered was testament to the rigour of the team’s quality control processes.
Genest also said that poor construction would lead to higher maintenance costs, which would have to be paid for by the consortium. He said: "If we cut corners, it’s us that will have to be paying for it. In 2049, we hand the bridge back to Infrastructure Canada, and they are going to expect it to meet agreed-upon standards."
The New Champlain Bridge Corridor Project, one of the largest infrastructure schemes under way in North America, involves the construction of a 3.4km bridge over the St Lawrence that will carry six lanes of road traffic as well as a segregated cycle and pedestrian lane, and will have space left for a light rail system to be added in the future.Â
Image: How the bridge will look when finished (Infrastructure Canada)