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Bridge collapse will happen again without investment


CANADA MUST invest £60bn in its highways infrastructure if it is to avoid a repeat of last month's bridge collapse in Montreal that killed five people, a leading engineer has warned.

Saeed Mirza, past president of the Canadian Society for Civil Engineering, told NCE that 'if we do not maintain infrastructure properly, this will happen again'.

Mirza, professor of civil engineering at Montreal's McGill University, said: 'Surveys are 10 to 15 years old and the decit between the money available and the money needed is about CA$125bn (£60bn).

'Governments do not pay enough attention to infrastructure.' A basic lack of maintenance has been blamed for last month's collapse (News last week).

Engineers said that salt corrosion of steel reinforcement, caused by salt water ingress through a movement joint, is likely to have led to shear failure in the concrete bridge deck.

Immediately following the collapse the Canadian government closed 19 other road bridges pending further assessment. All have now reopened bar one, which was found to be virtually identical in age and construction.

This was converted into a 'laboratory' and core samples were taken. The results of these samples will feed into the public inquiry set up by the Quebec government last week into the fatal bridge collapse.

Transport minister Michel Despres confirmed this week that the bridge will not reopen and is to be demolished.

'It is of the same design, of the same construction, in the same sector and built in the same year, ' he said, adding that the demolition would maintain public con ence in the local infrastructure.

Meanwhile, US engineers warned that a similar disaster could strike south of the border.

Mike Higgins, engineer with structural monitoring specialist Pure Technologies, said: 'The existing assessment techniques are ne. The issue is that there is often not the budget to appropriately maintain our bridges.' There is state-to-state variation in the US, but bridge monitoring and maintenance takes place on average every two years, said Higgins.

He added that the inquiry into the collapse is unlikely to assist engineers in avoiding further catastrophes.

'Bridge design has moved on since the two Montreal bridges were built in the early 1970s. It is well known that there is corrosion. Most overpass bridges are designed so that if something happens you can see it, ' said Higgins.

'There have been several collapses, every one gets a lot of attention and people study them to death, but it will be specic recommendations for specic types of bridge.'

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