November 12, 2013


The new linear railings on Montreal’s “ice bridge” which has undergone repairs.

Sprucing up Montreal’s “ice bridge”



Repairs are about to wrap up on one of North America’s rare bridges, the so-called “Ice Control Structure” that spans the St. Lawrence River between Montreal and its South Shore suburbs.

The bridge lies 305 metres upstream, or west, of the well-known Champlain Bridge — Canada’s busiest bridge for vehicular traffic — which is scheduled for replacement early in the next decade.

It was built for $18 million, almost at the same time as the Champlain, opening three years later in 1965.

The reason the two-kilometre bridge was built was to prevent ice build-up on the artificial islands that were constructed to host Expo 67 and subsequently The Man and His World yearly exhibition.

It also has some subsidiary roles such as to decrease the size of open water areas where new ice is formed and to control spring ice breakup.

But unlike the salt-corroded Champlain, which has been undergoing remedial work to maintain the bridge until a replacement structure is built — the “ice bridge” (as its colloquially known), due to its largely non-vehicular use, is in great shape, at least as pertains to its 72 pre-stressed concrete piers, two abutments and deck.

In terms of the four bridges spanning the St. Lawrence — the Champlain, Jacques Cartier and Mercier — the ice bridge is definitely the little brother and probably least noticeable to the millions of commuters a year who use the City of Montreal’s bridges. Unless, that is, you happen to be a jogger or a cyclist, and increasingly, a Champlain Bridge construction crew, driving along its 8.5-metre width deck to get to a work station on a dike that lies below both bridges.

Nevertheless the crown corporation that oversees the city’s bridges realized that some surface structural work was required to bring the bridge up to code and to make it friendlier to the increasing number of people who use it. So a $4.9 million contract was awarded to well-known South Shore contractor Loiselle Groupe. They were charged with painting new markings on the roadway — which includes a vehicle lane and adjacent two-way cycling/walking path — and to replace the aged tubular guard rails that look like something designed by a 1960s-era pop artist. The lighting system, which was out of commission for years, was reactivated and had new LED lights installed back in 2001 when the bridge was revitalized for cyclists and runners. That contract cost $311,896.

“The railings were the original design of the early 1960s but today they are not in conformance with today’s S6 code,” said Steve Tselios, senior director of engineering for the Jacques Cartier and Champlain Bridges Inc. (PJCCI). The old version measured 927 mm in height and the new one is 1,200 mm, a 273 mm difference.

There was also corrosion at the concrete base, which posed a “structural issue,” Tselios said.

Concrete anchors and rusted bolts were removed. In their place Loiselle installed new rebar and footings and then attached the new railing, a sectional grid pattern with four linear steel bars.

The contactor, working day shifts, removed the old railing, installed temporary Jersey barriers for protection, and work progressed in sections — first the upstream side and then the downstream back to Montreal, with the entire job due to finish this month.

“So as the contractor gets his material delivered he removes and installs and continues leapfrogging,” Tselios said.

Work was pretty straightforward and the only challenge, if any, was ensuring traffic could move while the project was underway.

“You’ve still got cyclists going back and forth throughout the entire summer period, and you also have some contractors going to access the other side to work on the Champlain Bridge,” he said.

“From my understanding there have been no issues or accidents that I’m aware of but that basically was the challenge.”

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