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Pierre Delorme Bridge buckles near Winnipeg

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Provincial officials are considering removing a massive sinking pier on the Pierre Delorme Bridge, south of Winnipeg, and doing a damage assessment before deciding if the bridge can be rehabilitated.
Winnipeg area's Pierre Delorme bridge, which buckled due to a sinking pier.
Winnipeg area's Pierre Delorme bridge, which buckled due to a sinking pier.

Civil engineering

The Manitoba government is trying to decide if a sinking bridge should be repaired or replaced.

Provincial officials are considering removing a massive sinking pier on the Pierre Delorme Bridge, south of Winnipeg, and doing a damage assessment before deciding if the bridge can be rehabilitated.

It is located in St. Adolphe and was closed in late August after an inspection by Highways Department staff revealed one of its massive supporting piers had shifted.

This shift caused severe structural instability.

The pier continued to sink and dropped more than three metres in 24 hours, which caused the bridge deck to buckle.

“We used a conventional excavator to remove the damaged section of the bridge,” said Ron Weatherburn, executive director with the Manitoba Infrastructure and Transportation.

“We built a pad and used two large excavators with jack hammer extensions to remove the portion of the bridge that failed.”

Despite the work, the future of the bridge has not yet been determined, and crews are working to save as much of the remaining structure as possible.

“The assessment is not finished and it is still not known if the bridge will be removed,” said Weatherburn. “The hope at this point is to salvage the existing bridge, but this still depends on the assessment. We will decide what to reconstruct, and know costs and time frames when the assessment is done. The assessment will still take a number of weeks.”

It is believed the pier started moving shortly after the spring flood, when waters receded on the Red River.

“The slope itself became unstable and a slope failure ensued,” he said. “One pier failed causing the bridge span to move.”

When that work is complete, crews will attempt to shore up the heavily-eroded riverbank.

Initially, Manitoba Infrastructure feared the bridge might collapse before the end of August, but the rate of slippage of the pier slowed.

“The remaining spans to the east of the failed section weren’t moved at all,” explained Weatherburn. “All the rest of the piers to the east are fine as far as we know. But, a small one to the west moved and may have to be replaced as well.”

The bridge will remain closed for the foreseeable future.

Security has been stationed around the bridge to ensure public safety both on and under the structure.

No one is allowed to travel across, walk on or boat under the bridge.

The Pierre Delorme Bridge carries major traffic across the Red River and connects highways 59 and 75, which are two major north-south routes.

by Richard Gilbert

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