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Second re-decking of its kind to start on Macdonald Bridge this weekend

DARTMOUTH – One of the biggest steps in the massive project to replace the suspended parts of the Macdonald Bridge is now underway.

Wednesday afternoon, the first new deck segment was lifted from the ground at the Cherbuini Metal Works in Dartmouth to a nearby barge. This will be the first section of the bridge to be installed, replacing an existing portion of the deck, as part of The Big Lift project.

“It’s very exciting,” said Allison Currie of Halifax Harbour Bridges. “This is a project that’s been six years in the planning and we’ve been doing on-site construction work since March, so to get to this point, ready to put that first deck segment in, is very exciting for everyone.”

The deck will stay on the barge until Friday evening, while crews work to put finishing touches on it over the next two days. If the weather cooperates, the first section of the bridge will be replaced this weekend.

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“We lower the existing deck segment to the barge and then we lift the new one up, so wind is critical with this process,” said Currie.

“If it’s going to be too windy, then we won’t be able to do that.”

Workers will inspect every inch of the new deck segment before the Big Lift. Natasha Pace/Global News

Halifax Harbour Bridges says the first four deck segments will be replaced on weekends to allow crews more time to get familiar with the process.

“It’s a learning curve obviously, so once we get that down to a 10 and a half hour period, then they will move to being (done during) overnight closures,” said Currie.

The deck segments are about 65 feet in length and weigh 130 tons. Each piece will come with certain things already built onto the deck.

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“When they do the replacement, they drop one of the old segments down and lift one of the new segments up and they have a limited amount of time to attach things. So we’re pre-attaching most of the parts, like the railings, the catwalks and all the other parts that need to be attached,” said Stephen Ross, General Manager, Cherubini Metal Works.

The deck segments will come with railings and catwalks already installed. Natasha Pace/Global News

Construction started on he first piece of the new deck for the Macdoanld Bridge in January.

“It’s like building a car, the first car off the assembly line takes a long time but the last car is quite quick,” Ross said.

Each piece of the deck is about 65 feet in length and weighs 130 tons. Natasha Pace/Global News

When plans for The Big Lift were first announced, the deck segment installation was supposed to start in September. Despite being a month late, officials say the project is going well.

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“This is a complex project,” Ross told Global News. “There was some technical issues but they’ve been overcome. A project like this to be four weeks behind is really, we’re in pretty good shape for the whole project.”

“This is the second time a project like this has been done,” Ross said.

If all goes well, the first piece of the Macdonald Bridge will be replaced this weekend. Natasha Pace/Global News

The Big Lift includes replacing the road deck and the floor beams, as well as stiffening trusses and suspender ropes on the suspended spans of the Macdonald Bridge.

The first time the suspended parts of a suspension bridge were replaced was on the Lions Gate Bridge about a decade ago.

For more information on The Big Lift, closures, and pedestrian-cyclist shuttle services visit https://www.hdbc.ca/redecking/.

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