Edmonton’s new Walterdale Bridge will not open until at least next summer, nearly two years after originally planned.
The city said some weather-sensitive work, including asphalt paving, can’t be done until next year.
“Based on the winter season that we have, we can’t pave asphalt in those time frames and so we’re not going to be able to do the weather proofing and asphalt paving before the season comes to an end,” Adam Laughlin, deputy city manager of integrated infrastructure services with the City of Edmonton, said.
That pushes back the opening of the bridge to mid-2017 but the city would not set a solid month or date for completion.
“Based on the progress that we’re at right now, it’s looking good for 2017 but beyond that I can’t give you a specific date.”
Mayor Don Iveson said while disappointing, he’s not surprised to hear of the delay.
“I think we’ve all understood there were serious delays when it came to getting the steel over from the vendor overseas and that that had created some delays for the project.”
Construction on the bridge began in 2013 and was supposed to be done by fall 2015. But last spring, that date was pushed back a year because the bridge’s 42 steel beams, which were made in South Korea, began arriving months later than expected.
The $155 million bridge was then scheduled to be open to traffic by late 2016.
The existing bridge will remain open until the new bridge is ready. The city said the shared-use path will also open in mid-2017 along with the new bridge.
Laughlin said the delays speak to the complexities of the project.
“There’s lot of complexities here. This isn’t building a Lego-type bridge. This comes with a lot of welding, engineering, tensioning, concrete pours that are subject to ensuring that we have the right weather conditions for that,” he said.
“I gather they’ve had some additional challenges with the complexity of the bridge and challenging weather over the summer,” Iveson added. “Some of these factors are out of anyone’s control, namely the weather. Some of them are very much in the vendor’s control and their subcontractor’s control and not the city’s control.”
The city said while the opening date has been pushed back, the project remains on budget and the contractor will be held accountable for the delays.
“There’s a couple of penalties that are in it and it’s related to on-site occupancy dates and days beyond the milestone completion dates,” Laughlin said.
“This isn’t cheap – from a damage perspective on a daily impact to them – so they are being held accountable.”
“We’re going to save money overall because of the penalties,” Iveson said. “So while it’s disappointing, of course, that the project is delayed, the city will get good value for money out of this replacement bridge.”
Laughlin said the city has learned it needs to be more open and flexible when it comes to timelines on complex projects like the Walterdale Bridge.
“For these larger-scale complex projects, I think we need to manage expectations and we need to ensure that we’re clear on – when we’re setting deliverable dates – that it comes with a risk that we won’t meet those just based on the complexity of the projects.”
Laughlin said the old bridge is being monitored, structurally, to ensure it remains in good shape to carry traffic but at this point there are no concerns. The old bridge will be demolished once the new one is open.