The damage done by a southbound truck to the Highway 3/55 overpass, north of the Diefenbaker Bridge, will not likely be repaired until 2014 and it’s also expected to be closed for at least a couple of weeks.
The overpass was damaged by what eyewitnesses described as a truck with a backhoe on it, in the early hours of Wednesday morning. The impact of the southbound-travelling vehicle dented and tore chunks of metal out of eight of nine beams under the structure.
Scott Golding, the City of Prince Albert’s manager of capital projects and planning, said all eight of the beams struck have large dents and gouges in them. “Four of the eight beams have quite severe buckles in the bottom flange as well. And the outer beam on the south side, which is the most damaged, the support brace is actually torn away from the member in the lower end and is there’s cracks in the weld.”
He said with all of these issues, the city will need to bring in a bridge expert to determine if the overpass is safe for traffic.
“We are not concerned with the structure at this time with its own self weight. We think it’s all right for that, it’s just what kind of loading can it support in this state and how much and for how long. And what do we need to do to fix it?”
The city will be bringing in a consultant to examine the structure within a few days. Golding said it will be a matter of weeks before they’ll know what, if any, weight restrictions may be put into place.
It may take months for a repair plan to be put into place, he added. The city does not yet know how much it will cost to repair the damage to the overpass – it will be asking the consultant for a cost estimate.
“We’re going to have two layers of costs,” Golding said. “One is the cost of what it’s going to take to get the inspectors here and perform all these tasks, and the other cost is: ‘how much is it going to be to fix things?’”
Where the funding will come from for this repair is also an issue.
“We don’t have money identified in the budget for this right now, so that’s something that’s going to have to be presented to our senior management and to city council, once we have some figures for them. At this point, we don’t know.”
The overpass does have signs posted on the north and southbound sides. The clearance, depending on which side a driver is approaching from, is either 5.6 or 5.7 metres. Golding said this is quite normal for a highway overpass.
He said the city has had problems with the Riverside Drive overpass in the past. About five years ago, a similar incident to the one that damaged the Highway 3/55 bridge occurred. He said that the Riverside Drive overpass is considered a “low bridge.”
But the 3/55 overpass is considered to be normal, he said. “So, that’s kind of what makes this … very strange too, is that … this isn’t a problem area.”
“In the time I’ve been with the city, almost seven years, there’s never been a problem with height on this bridge,” Golding said.
The city is currently advising drivers to follow detour routes.
The Prince Albert Police Service is currently investigating the incident that led to the accident. It received reports at about 12:30 a.m. on Wednesday about the accident.
According to police, its units were tied up with a break-and-enter that was in progress and could not respond to the initial report. When police did arrive, the semi that had caused the accident had already fled the scene.
Eyewitnesses described the semi truck as a navy blue, older model vehicle, driven by a female driver.
Anyone with information is being asked to contact police.
On Twitter: @thiajames
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