Bridge work ruffles feathers

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A traffic light protects the construction zone at the bridge over the North Castor River, allowing only one lane of traffic to flow at a time.

Many residents of the town of Winchester – particularly those who make the daily commute into Ottawa via County Road 31 – have been frustrated lately with ongoing bridge work that is causing delays just north of the village. The work will rehabilitate a bridge on County Road 31 over the North Castor River, between Liscumb Road and Cloverdale Road. 

Work on the relatively short bridge was contracted to Dalcon Constructors Ltd, and has been ongoing for several months. Social media users have raised concerns lately about the length of time the work is taking, with one user joking that it won’t be completed until 2026. Locals are divided on the issue, with many pointing out that labour shortages abound across almost all industries. 

The Times reached out to officials from the United Counties of Stormont, Dundas, and Glengarry, who were responsible for awarding the contract for the bridge work as the road is a Counties responsibility. The response suggests that there is still more waiting to do. “The last schedule received detailed project completion in the second week of November,” said Todd Lihou of the SD&G United Counties. “Since then, there has been a material delay preventing the project from proceeding, the impact is expected to bring the project closer to December. The contractor plans to implement strategies to increase site production (additional labour and Saturdays).”

It was also learned that the bridge work is critically important. “The existing bridge was at a crucial point in its service life where work had to be completed before a rehabilitation was not practical,” Todd added. “The existing structure had a leaking expansion joint causing damage to the underside of the structure. Other components of the bridge required repair (deck, barrier wall and wingwall) making it a prioritized project for 2022. With the current rehabilitation, the counties expect to see 20-25 years of service life prior to more work taking place at this location.”

While there has been some speculation that the delays have been caused by a labour shortage, there is a different issue at play. “As the supply chain continues to be impacted, this project has seen its share of supply delays since construction began,” said Todd. “The most recent being anchoring rods to mount hardware to the structure in order to lift the bridge and replace the existing bearing pads.”

Bridge work must meet certain minimum safety standards for obvious reasons, including submissions and reviews to make sure that infrastructure is safe. Fabricated material drawings are reviewed, and concrete is tested and poured under strictly controlled conditions. Since no work or vibrations can take place near newly poured concrete for at least four days after pouring, often only one concrete placement per week can be completed. 

The bridge remains open to traffic but is reduced to one lane. Drivers will likely need to deal with the resulting slow downs for at least a couple months longer, though safety will always be the number one priority. 

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