‘Poor condition’: City of Winnipeg inspection reports of century-old bridges

'Some are in poorer condition than others': The Arlington Bridge is one of four bridges ranked 'poor' by the City. Chris Stanton / Global News

The Arlington Bridge just celebrated its 106th birthday.

In the 1960s, the city put bridge weight restrictions in place: buses can no longer cross it. In the early 1990s, it underwent major rehabilitation, and today, the city acknowledges it’s near the end of its usable life.

But thousands still cross it — and feel it shake beneath them — every single day.

RELATED: Central Winnipeg bridge closed Wednesday

Even though there has been talk of a replacement for years, the City of Winnipeg’s department in charge of inspection still call the Arlington bridge safe.

Darren Burmey, the City’s Bridge Planning and Operations Engineer, said the Arlington is one of four Winnipeg vehicle bridges in poor condition.

The 107-year-old Louise, Redwood and Seine Road crossing are all ranked lower than the city’s “fair” scoring, but Burmey doesn’t believe there’s a problem.

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“If it’s an absolute safety thing the bridge is closed down and the repairs are done,” Burmey said. “All of them are in safe condition.”

READ MORE: Arlington Bridge to close for repairs until early September

But just what does the city consider safe? The Arlington has been ranked as “poor” for years and the latest inspection reports obtained by Global News show major issues.

The reports, which were conducted by a two person team in November, rank specific elements of the Arlington on a scale from one to nine: nine being excellent and one being poor.

Out of 285 elements that were inspected, the highest rating is a 5/9. Most of the elements are rated even lower, and there’s notes that mention steel decking rusted-through, coating cracked and peeling, deteriorating concrete, and rotten 4x4s.

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In an interview, Burmey told Global News that necessary repairs are consistently being done on all four bridges to keep them in working condition. But inspection reports show changes that need to be made are often ignored: dropping specific Arlington ‘steel columns’ and ‘bearing lines’ scores from a 4/9 one inspection to a 3/9 rating the next.

VIEW: images of Winnipeg bridges which have been the subject of safety concerns:

“The need for intervention to go in and improve its condition is dependent on the maintenance strategy for the bridge,” Burmey said. “To go ahead to and rehabilitate [the Arlington Bridge] would be a major undertaking to essentially replace most of the structure itself.
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“On the structure there are certain defects that may appear that may be warning signs of potential things.”

For now, the city only reacts with necessary repairs — which means temporary closures and planning for a new Arlington replacement, which would cost $330 million and not be slated to be working until 2024 at the earliest. An alternative Louise Bridge is tied to rapid transit expansion.

READ MORE: City of Winnipeg reveals design of what new Arlington Bridge could look like

“Our proactive thing is to go ahead and plan for its ultimate replacement,” Burmey said.

Seeking a second opinion on the structure’s condition, Global News asked the University of Manitoba assistant professor in the Department of Civil Engineering to take a look at the Arlington Bridge.

During the visual inspection Wednesday, Young-Jin Cha pointed out what he called “severe corrosion” and “major cracks” in parts of the bridge, and said that while it’s impossible to condemn the bridge without thorough testing, there are some red flags.

RELATED: Arlington Bridge closed for the weekend

“The main steel member [of the Arlington] has a crack; that is one of the critical damages,” Cha said. “We cannot predict when another member or another location of one of the bridges will have a similar type of critical damage.
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