by Stuart Fullarton
Lacombe County councillors have taken steps to resolve a damaged bridge issue affecting traffic in an area south of Bentley.
Bridge 00627 (referred to by the county as the Pink Bridge), was heavily damaged by a large piece of machinery in May.
The damage was so severe that the bridge was promptly closed to traffic. A number of inspections and assessments followed, and it was found that damage was more extensive than initially thought.
After completing a Level II inspection of the bridge, Bow Valley Bridge Services determined that the bridge must, for the time being, remain closed.
Lacombe County Commissioner Terry Hager described the nature of the damage.
“It was a piece of equipment that went through and just caught onto it, and unfortunately, as it went through the bridge, it caught onto a number of locations and kept on doing damage,” he said. “The structural integrity of the bridge has been jeopardized.”
At council’s July 24 meeting, Hager was given authorization to negotiate a cash settlement with the insurance company, and to investigate alternatives for the bridge’s repair or replacement.
Repairs could include everything from straightening and painting, to removing steel pieces and putting new ones in, he said.
“It’s quite a variety as to what would have to be done.”
Hager said the closure has affected traffic in the area — before the incident, an estimated 133 vehicles used the bridge every day.
Area drivers, however, have been understanding for the most part, he added.
“People seem to understand and have not complained too much, although the longer it stays closed, the more we’ll hear from it. Certainly, it is an inconvenience for those individuals in the immediate area needing to get across the river.”
The future of the bridge depends on the outcome of insurance negotiations, said Hager. Options to be presented could include repairing the bridge, permanently closing it, performing only minimum repairs on it, performing only urgent repairs on it, or designing and building a new bridge altogether.
The latter option would come with an estimated $2.5 million price tag. A new bridge could be constructed by fall 2015, according to a county estimate.
Assistant Public Works Supervisor Brandon Maier noted in a report for council that there are several factors to take into consideration when discussing the bridge’s replacement.
“The complicating factor is we won’t really know the complete cost of replacing the bridge until the design is complete and we see how much equipment time is required to do the associated road work and if the bids that we receive are close to the estimate,” he said.
The county’s Bridge Management Plan marked the bridge for replacement in 2013, based on its initial life expectancy. Recent inspections, however, showed it could have been capable of lasting until 2020.
The county notes that the issue with this particular bridge was brought to them “a few years earlier than anticipated”.
Another bridge in the vicinity, the ‘Green Bridge’, is also nearing the end of its anticipated lifespan, although it still remains in service. That bridge is scheduled for replacement in 11 years, despite being older than the ‘Pink Bridge’.
“That’s just through normal wear and tear,” said Hagar. “It’s nearing the end of its useful life.”