Falling "cosmetic" concrete prompts hundreds of structural inspections
Published Tuesday, January 14, 2014 12:09PM EST
Last Updated Tuesday, January 14, 2014 11:05PM EST
Transports Quebec will be inspecting 500 structures across the province this week, including 200 in Montreal, after a piece of concrete fell from the Henri-Bourassa Ave. overpass on Monday.
When the hunk of concrete came tumbling down, it stuck a car heading west on Highway 40, and several vehicles were damaged. Luckily, nobody was injured in the incident.
Provincial engineers examined the overpass for several hours after the incident, and returned overnight to remove loose and weakened concrete that they considered "cosmetic".
Sarah Bensadoun of Transports Quebec said the concrete block that fell was part of the protective barrier that holds up the guard rail, and was not considered a structural piece of the bridge.
Not so, said McGill University Civil Engineering Professor Saeed Mirza.
“It’s very important,” he said. “It’s an integral part of the structure. It is to protect the steel, and therefore we cannot take it lightly.”
News of the incident didn’t surprise Peter Brooks much. He works in the area, and has been crossing the bridge on his bicycle daily for two summers. He said he felt so queasy about the state of the infrastructure that he snapped a few photos of it.
“You can actually put your hand underneath the bars,” he said. “It’s absolutely ridiculous.”
Transports Quebec normally inspects overpasses once a year and said the Henri Bourassa overpass had passed its most recent visual inspection in November.
In recent years there have been many cases of structural failures on overpasses and bridges in Quebec, the deadliest of which was the de la Concorde overpass collapse in Laval in 2006. Five people were killed and six were wounded.
In 2012 Transports Quebec inspected this overpass at length, and a report indicated the Henri Bourassa overpass needed repairs.
"What they decided in 2012 was that there was general maintenance to be done on this structure between two and five years from now," said Bensadoun, adding that would likely be re-evaluated pending the new inspections.
The province will also inspect overpasses built along the same lines as the Henri Bourassa structure to determine if they remain in good shape.
Meanwhile, the Coalition Avenir Quebec is asking the government to implement an emergency action plan to repair crumbling infrastructure. CAQ’s Transport critic, Eric Caire, called driving on Quebec’s highways an “extreme sport.”
An engineer looks at the Henri Bourassa overpass several hours after a piece of concrete fell onto a car (Jan. 14, 2014)
photo courtesy: Philippe Bonneville / Cogeco Nouvelles