Bob Edwards is not confident in the structural integrity of the Bruhn Bridge.
To change that, the province would have to provide a current, thorough engineering study on the bridge, and/or guarantee the 55-year-old structure will not fall before replacement. But, he says, the province has yet to provide either.
A recent EVN story detailing Sicamous resident Bea Herzog’s concerns about the bridge prompted Edwards, a former Sicamous resident and Salmon Arm’s representative on the Revelstoke for a Safe Trans-Canada Highway committee, to voice his thoughts on the structure and its current state, which does not impress.
“I used to live in Sicamous, I did for about 17 years… and we’d walk under the bridge twice a week, and never did we see any deterioration like this,” says Edwards. “I was out there last year and I did see this so I went to the highways ministry office in Salmon Arm and I talked to an engineer about it.”
In particular, Edwards referred to the numerous areas underneath the bridge where, in 2011, the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure, chipped away patches of concrete after a three-foot by three-inch thick piece fell from the bridge into a boat passing beneath. After removing any areas showing cracks, the ministry treated exposed rebar to prevent rusting.
“Having been in construction for many years, when you see rebar like this, it’s not what you see, its what you don’t see,” says Edwards, noting he raised his concerns with a MOTI engineer. “The real deterioration is down, maybe even three metres below. Concrete is very porous, and his statement was the fact that it was water and salt leaking down off the bridge….
“So I asked him, will you give me a written guarantee that bridge will be standing in 10 years. He said, ‘no.’ So, does it inspire confidence? No, absolutely not.”
The province, however, maintains the bridge is in good condition with may years of service life remaining.
“As with all of our structures, it is inspected annually by our technical staff and no serious issues have been identified,” MOTI spokesperson Kate Trotter states in an email. “The most recent inspection was in summer 2012, and included a detailed inspection using a specialized lift called a ‘snooper truck’ that allowed inspectors to access all parts of the bridge. A similar inspection is planned for this October.”
Trotter says all bridges in the province are inspected on an annual basis, receiving “routine” and “detailed” inspections. The former, she says, involves a combination of hands-on and visual inspection. The frequency of these inspections is determined by the area manager of bridges based on the condition of specific structure, “but not less than once every calendar year.” Detailed inspections involve a close-up, hands-on look at all parts of the structure, sometimes supplemented by physical testing.
“The frequency of detailed condition inspections varies based on age and condition of the structure but a maximum of 60 months (five years) interval is assumed to be appropriate in most cases,” says Trotter. “In the case of Bruhn Bridge, a detailed inspection has been performed by our technical experts with the use of the snooper truck each of the last two years.”
What would satisfy Edwards, however, is an engineering study that includes X-rays or thermographic resonance imaging to detect weak points.
“I know darn well, when you start seeing rusty rebar, that unless you actually take it down to bare metal and treat it, rust comes back. But it takes a long time for the rust to appear like this,” says Edwards. “Concrete itself doesn’t support the bridge; it’s just bulk. What supports the bridge is the rebar, and it’s been compromised. So I think, at the very least, instead of someone going around with a chipping hammer saying everything is fine, or a spokesperson, you’ve got to get an engineers report saying that bridge is OK.”
District of Sicamous administrator Heidi Frank says staff have no reason to doubt the ministry’s response regarding the safety and longevity of the Bruhn.
Trotter reiterated there are no immediate plans to replace the bridge, and that its replacement would be developed in future work on the Trans-Canada Highway four-laning program.