Commuter chaos ensues when the Alex Fraser or Port Mann bridges are closed or restricted due to snow and ice falling from their cables — a danger that is sometimes referred to as an “ice bomb.”
That problem was unforeseen when those bridges were built according to Ashok Bhatti, Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure director for the South Coast region, and both now use a cable collar system, which drops chain collars along the length of the cables, to sheer off ice and snow.
The same system will be installed on the Pattulo Bridge replacement with remote activation capabilities, Bhatti confirmed, acknowledging it’s not a perfect system.
“We’ve gone back to the research table, we’ve looked, there isn’t anything else out there that we can look at,” he told Global News on Friday.
“To many degrees, the system we have has been effective in most cases — not all cases.”
Like the Alex Fraser Bridge, the cable stays on the Patullo replacement will be outside the travel lanes and the multi-use path, meaning melting snow and ice — natural or induced — will not happen in traffic. The new structure will also have fewer cable stays, hopefully decreasing the risk and need for closure.
“We’re not anticipating issues on this structure to the same degree, but again, climate conditions, intensity of storms — that’s all increasing, so we can’t guarantee there won’t be challenges. It’s just we’re equipping ourselves to deal with those challenges as much as possible,” Bhatti said.
Engineers in the province have considered alternatives, including robots to climb the cables and chisel off the ice, and a plan to spray the cable stays with a de-icing solution. None were as efficient as the cable collar system, said Bhatti.
“We have canvased many jurisdictions internationally and nationally in terms of what they’re doing, and I can say with a high degree of confidence at this point, many of those communities, governments simply shut the bridge down,” he explained.
“They don’t have another solution that’s that’s effective, so at this point, this is the only solution of its kind.”
The wider, four-lane Patullo Bridge replacement is expected to cost nearly $1.4 billion. It will include walking and cycling lanes, separated from traffic by barriers, and offer more direct connections to regional road networks, according to the Ministry of Transportation.
Pile installation is already complete for the in-river foundations and construction on the main tower of the new structure and the in-river foundation near New Westminster is ongoing. Construction on all the bridge foundations is underway in Surrey as well, with off-ramp foundations next on the agenda.
It was initially scheduled to open late this year, but that timeline has been delayed to 2024, due to delays from the COVID-19 pandemic and the complexities of the project, the ministry has said.
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