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Canada faces infrastructure crisis

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.
Past president of the Canadian Society for Civil Engineering Saeed Mirza told NCE that 'if we do not maintain infrastructure properly, this will happen again'.'Surveys are 10-15 years old, and the deficit between the money available now and the money needed is about CA$125 bn (£60 bn),' said Mirza, who is also professor of civil engineering at Montreal's McGill University.'Governments do not pay enough attention to infrastructure.'A basic lack of maintenace 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 of concrete bridge deck.Immediately following the collpase the Canadian government closed 19 other road bridges pending further assessment.All have now reopened bar one, which was found be virtually identical in age and construction.This was converted into a 'laboratory' and core samples 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 Després confirmed this week 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 confidence 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 fine. The issue is that there is often not the budget to appropriately maintain our bridges,' he said.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 there is corrosion. Most overpass bridges are designed so that if something happens you can see it.'There have been several collapses, and every one gets a lot of attention, and people study them to death, but it will be specific recommendations for specific types of bridge.'

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