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Montreal Gazette

Exposing the underbelly of a doomed, decaying span; Repairs needed to sustain bridge until new one is built
Thu Feb 28 2013 Page: A3 Section: News Byline: ANDY RIGA Source: The Gazette Illustrations: :DAVE SIDAWAY, THE GAZETTE / Workers use boats to reach the Champlain Bridge where, starting next week, they will be installing queen posts to add support to the outer girders.; :DAVE SIDAWAY, THE GAZETTE / Repair work under the Champlain Bridge will continue throughout the winter.;

You don't hear the roar of traffic when you're perched under the Champlain Bridge, dangling on a work platform 15 metres above the frigid St. Lawrence River. On Tuesday, The Gazette toured the underbelly of the doomed, decaying span. A dozen workers confidently strode about, seemingly unaffected by the height, the cold and the danger. They were putting the finishing touches on the work platform, in preparation for yet another patch-up job. Starting next week, unbeknownst to the 160,000 drivers who zoom by daily a couple of metres above, the workers will be installing elaborate steel contraptions on this section of the Champlain. Known as "queen posts," the devices will provide structural support to the bridge's outer girders, whose internal steel rods are badly corroded. Girders are concrete beams that are right below the roadway. On the Champlain, there are 50 sets of seven girders running parallel to traffic. The strength of the queen posts - from stretched steel cables - will add to the strength from other external support

devices already installed in recent years. The new queen posts, hanging down over the water, push the girders up. The previous support, now installed horizontally along the outside of all but a handful of girders, provide lateral strength. They're both part of what has become a new external skeleton for the bridge, compensating for the degraded outer girders. Despite appearances and the constant shoring up, federal officials insist the bridge is safe and will remain so until a replacement is ready. The Champlain, Canada's busiest bridge, is 51 years old. It was not built to withstand the enormous amounts of salt used in Montreal winters. The outer girders have been subjected to the most salt. You can't simply replace girders. Under the bridge's unusual design, each section of girders was knitted together using concrete and steel rods, making girder replacement impossible. Ottawa plans to build a new Champlain.

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Price tag: $3 billion to $5 billion. It is expected to open in 2021. After that, it will take three years and cost an estimated $155 million to dismantle the old Champlain. (Explosives are not an option because of environmental rules.) Before the bridge can go, Ottawa has said it will have to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on end-of-life care for the Champlain. The deficient girders aren't the only parts of the bridge underside that need fixing. Workers must also repair the bridge's piers, the thick, concrete pillars that hold the bridge up out of the water. From a boat, you get a close-up view of the ominous decay on piers that have yet to be repaired. The outer layer of concrete is crumbling and rusted reinforcement rods jut out. To fix the piers, workers peel off loose concrete, add steel reinforcing rods and install wood formwork around the pier. Then, new concrete is poured. Pier caps the tops of the pillars - must also be repaired. Atop the bridge, Ottawa has paving to do and it must replace several expansion joints, the devices that absorb vibration from vehicles and allow sections of the bridge to shift slightly. Repairs under the bridge do not affect traffic, but the expansion-joint work and paving require lanes to be closed. Last year, lanes were closed over three weekends so four expansion joints could be

replaced and parts of the bridge could be re-paved. It was part of the $105 million in work on federal bridges in Montreal. The impact of this year's effort is not known yet. In March or April, Jacques Cartier and Champlain Bridges Inc., the federal bridge agency, expects to announce its work plans. It says major work affecting motorists will be done on weekends. From the work platform suspended under the Champlain, you can see a much older bridge in the distance. The Victoria Bridge stands proudly, oblivious to salt and aging. Opened in 1859, the Victoria - a steel bridge on stone piers - shows no signs of giving up. MORE ONLINE ariga@ montrealgazette.com Twitter: @andyriga Facebook: AndyRigaMontreal For more photos plus videos of the Champlain Bridge from below, visit facebook. com/andyrigamontreal

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