Diefenbaker bridge’s piers are solid

Tyler Clarke
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A sonar image of one of the Diefenbaker bridge’s six piers is seen. 

No matter what diagnosis engineers gave the Diefenbaker bridge’s piers, Coun. Don Cody would have been dissatisfied.


The pier inspection report, dated June 25, was made public this week, revealing the piers to be in decent shape.

Although happy to see that the piers are OK, Cody is quick to point out that the people who signed a “Prince Albert Area Second Bridge River Crossing Study” report on Jan. 10, 2013, did not have this information.

The idea of an engineer signing the report without having inspected the piers remains “kind of odd,” he concluded.

Given the lack of pier inspection, its conclusion is particularly odd, Cody said -- that following the repairs undertaken in 2011 and 2012, “it will be in service for primary weight trucks for another 25 years.”

Visual inspections and high-resolution sonar imagery were used to inspect each of the Diefenbaker bridge’s six piers.

The river bottom was also scanned for a distance of 50 metres upstream and downstream of the bridge to check for the presence of scour holes.

With scour determined to be not of concern and the 55-year-old piers reported in “good condition with only minor visible deterioration occurring in the form of light scaling and hairline to narrow cracking throughout,” the ISL Engineering and Land Services report concludes that the bridge is safe.

However, in the event of a high water level event, engineers recommend another inspection take place in order to nip damage in the bud.

Satisfied with the report, city manager Jim Toye said that no major bridge repairs are on the immediate horizon, though, like anything else, they’re always inevitable.

With city council set to consider the 2015 budget by the end of the year, Toye said that the bridge’s upper structure might come up as an expense, however it’s not an immediate necessity.

“When you drive by and can see rebar on the side wall, you say ‘oh no,’ but that’s more aesthetics than safety,” he summarized.

“Sometimes what appears to be in very poor shape, it is, but the bridge isn’t in any danger of falling in or anything like that.”

Like any Diefenbaker bridge expense, if the city’s elected officials include repairs in the 2015 budget they’re likely to add the condition that work not proceed until they get funding from the provincial government, since it’s under the province’s Urban Highway Connector Program.

A program “greatly lacking,” Toye said that this proviso might result in further delays.

“We need to stay ahead of the curve when it comes to capital, too,” he said. “It’s just a matter of when those funds become available.”

Then, there’s the debate surrounding the funding of a second North Saskatchewan River crossing at or near Prince Albert.

“One day we’re going to have and accident on that bridge and we’re going to be in big trouble,” Cody said. “Everybody’s going to ask; ‘What now?’”

Organizations: Prince Albert, ISL Engineering and Land Services

Geographic location: Bridge River, North Saskatchewan River

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