The provincial government announced a plan to repair and reopen the St. Louis Bridge on Wednesday following a brief closure for inspections.
© Herald photo by Perry Bergson
The St. Louis Bridge is shown in the background behind the bison statue in the community south of Prince Albert last May. The Ministry of Highways and Infrastructure has announced a repair plan for the bridge following a brief closure for inspections.
Engineers began examining the bridge after staff members from the Ministry of Highways and Infrastructure discovered a crack in the structure last week.
“We did an inspection of the bridge and then on Monday, once that was completed, the engineers reviewed the results of the inspection to determine if the bridge could be reopened safely, and then secondly what repairs would need to be made,” Ministry spokesperson Doug Wakabayashi said.
The bridge is set to reopen following the installation of temporary traffic signals and signs.
The Highway Hotline will be updated as soon as the bridge opens up to traffic again. One-way traffic will be in effect and traffic lights in operation until the repairs are completed.
The Ministry anticipated on Wednesday the bridge could be re-opened to normal two-way traffic within five days.
“What we’ll do is we’ll have one lane open to traffic and the lights will be set up to alternate the southbound/northbound traffic,” Wakabayashi said.
Upon its reopening, traffic will first be routed onto the southbound lane as repairs are made to the northbound lane.
Traffic will subsequently move over to the northbound lane while repairs are made to the southbound lane.
“Then hopefully within five days, we (will) have the bridge open to … normal traffic,” Wakabayashi said.
During their inspection of the bridge, Ministry engineers determined that the crack responsible for the closure resulted from a combination of corrosion to an expansion joint and the recent wave of cold temperatures.
Hopefully within five days, we (will) have the bridge open to … normal traffic. Doug Wakabayashi
Wakabayashi explained that expansion joints in bridge decks are designed to allow the structure to expand in warm summer temperatures and then contract during the colder winter months.
“With the weather we’ve had recently, there’s been a lot of contraction,” he said.
“You combine that with the corrosion -- the bridge is about 100 years old -- and because of the natural corrosion of steel, plus the corrosion that occurs because of all the road salt it’s exposed to over the years, there are some very brittle pieces on there.”
The significant contraction combined with the fragile nature of bridge components, he said, eventually caused a piece of the structure to break loose.
Regarding repair efforts, Wakabayashi noted, “Basically, the easiest way to describe it is they’re going to bolt a plate down … over the area that cracked and the expansion joint, and then they’ll put some pavement over the top of that.”
The Ministry stated in its official release that the reopening of the bridge is subject to good winter weather conditions and the progress of the repair crew.