Engineering concerns halt work on parkway footbridge again

For the second time in under two years, the City of Ottawa has stopped construction on a $5-million footbridge designed to span the Airport Parkway.

The city announced on Friday concerns over the bridge’s supporting system forced it fire the project’s consultant, Montreal-based engineering firm Genivar.

City officials were in particular concerned about the bridge’s maintenance design and how long it would be able to last, according to a memo sent from staff to city councillors.

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They hired Buckland and Taylor, an independent bridge engineering firm, to investigate the issues. Eventually, they asked Genivar to make changes based on the recommendations.

“Following unproductive discussions with Genivar, the City lost confidence with them and their services were terminated,” the memo, signed by deputy city manager Nancy Schepers, reads.

The latest delay means use of the bridge will have to be pushed back even more. The project was originally supposed to be finished and in use by May of last year.

Construction of the bridge, which the city hoped would give pedestrians the ability to cross the busy Airport Parkway between the Hunt Club area and the southeast Transitway, also ground to a halt early last year.

The project’s general contractor, Louis W. Bray Construction, ordered an engineering estimate to determine what had happened to parts of the concrete that had completely disintegrated.

The most recent delay in the bridge work appears to be far more serious, however, as it involves basic structural designs rather than issues with construction.

The city has hired another engineering firm, Delcan Corporation, to take over the bridge’s design from Genivar. It will review all the design and construction that has taken place so far then identify any modifications that have to take place.

“The City expects to receive the results of the review by the middle of November and construction will remain suspended until the City receives the results of this review,” the memo reads.

In the meantime, the city is going to “pursue legal action” to recover costs related to any delays and design issues.

It’s also planning to implement a number of new initiatives contractors will be required to follow on construction projects.

This includes “more stringent” pre-qualifications for engineers and contractors during the procurement process and a third-party review of bridge designs.

It also plans to take additional financial securities from contractors and wants to review the use of penalties designed to discourage bridge delays.

This is the second time this year the City of Ottawa has run into issues with bridge construction. Welding issues on the Strandherd-Armstrong Bridge in the city’s south end had officials reviewing the timeline for that project. 

It was originally supposed to be completed in spring 2012.

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