Work continues at the Craigflower bridge site as crews drill the bridge’s 44 piles into the bedrock in the Gorge Waterway. A portion of  the road upgrades were completed ahead of schedule

Work continues at the Craigflower bridge site as crews drill the bridge’s 44 piles into the bedrock in the Gorge Waterway. A portion of the road upgrades were completed ahead of schedule

Design flaw leads to more delays, higher cost for Craigflower bridge

124 joints on bridge reenforced to boost seismic stability

The opening of the new Craigflower Bridge will be delayed yet again after engineers discovered the bridge – as planned – could have collapsed or been severely damaged during an earthquake.

Engineers on the project determined in July that some 124 load-bearing joints on the new span needed to be strengthened in order to improve its seismic standing.

“The bridge would’ve been fine, it certainly would’ve stood up (day-to-day). But the risk is with the forces of an earthquake, you have to have these incredible strong connections,” said Jim Hemstock, Saanich’s manager of capital projects.

The vulnerability was discovered after the steel fabricator had begun constructing bridge components, when the project’s design engineer reviewed the fabricator’s detailed drawings.

And while it’s a relatively easy fix – extra steel plates need to be welded on at each of those joints – it’s work that wasn’t planned in the original contract.

Saanich has spent the last three months negotiating with the contractor, Don Mann Excavating, on what impact this new work will have on the construction timeline and budget, but it still doesn’t have firm answers to either of those questions.

“We’re expecting probably another month delay. We’ll be opening in the spring of 2014,” Hemstock said. Saanich Mayor Frank Leonard said the bridge will be open “no sooner than March, no later than the end of May, June.”

This is the second time this summer that the project’s timeline has been extended; in July the reopening was moved from December 2013 to March 2014 as a result of a North America-wide steel shortage.

Hemstock says that while the new work will come at a cost, the nearly $2 million set aside as a contingency should allow the project to stay on budget.

This will also be the second time this year that the overall cost of the bridge has jumped. In March, once contract tenders were received, the price tag increased by $2.2 million to $13.2 million.

Saanich and View Royal, which share ownership of the span, received $11.05 million in grants to pay for the replacement. The two municipalities will share any outstanding costs.

Hemstock says he hopes negotiations with the contractor will be resolved soon, at which point Saanich will provide a more concrete update on the delay and financial impact as a result of the seismic upgrade.

For more information on the Craigflower Bridge project, visit saanich.ca/services/engineering/projects/craigflower.html.

kslavin@saanichnews.com