BY CHRISTOPHER FRIESEN - Three modular panel bridges have been installed over watercourses on the Eastside Road, a new all-season road being built along the east side of Lake Winnipeg.
The new bridges will eventually become a permanent part of the finished road, but will also assist in extending the existing winter road season until the project is complete.
“We were able to train guys on site and employ a lot of the northern community members to help us out,” said Kevin Gromnisky, a project manager for Arnason Industries.
When finished, the Eastside Road will be 156 kilometres long and will replace a seasonal winter road, providing area communities with a vital economic link to the rest of the Province of Manitoba.
About 24 kilometres of road have been built along with the three panel bridges and numerous culverts.
The bridges are located strategically at the Red Sucker, Stevenson and Mainland rivers.
All three bridges were built by a partnership between Winnipeg-based Arnason Industries and construction companies owned by communities from the east side.
For the Stevenson River and Mainland River bridges, Arnason’s joint venture partner was a construction company owned by the Wasagamack First Nation.
Arnason’s partnered with the Red Sucker Lake First Nation to build the Red Sucker River Bridge.
Gromnisky worked on the bridge project and said installing these modular bridges, in such a remote location, worked very well.
All three bridges are single-lane structures measuring 4.8 metres wide.
The Red Sucker River Bridge is 61 metres long and is built on foundations of reinforced concrete abutments seated on bedrock.
The project, which was completed and opened in time for the 2013 winter road season cost about $5 million.
The Stevenson River Bridge is also 61 metres long, but the foundations consist of pipe piles cored into the bedrock with reinforced concrete abutments and piers.
The project is valued at about $6 million.
The Mainland River Bridge is the longest at 85 metres and cost about $6 million.
Dillon Consulting Ltd. worked on the bridge system design and Friesen Drillers of Steinbach, Man. were subcontracted to drill the holes for the piles.
The panel bridges were manufactured by New Jersey based Acrow Bridge.
Their panel bridge system offers rapid construction through its modular design and includes an innovative method of launching them from one side of a watercourse.
“You build the bridge on one side and you push with a dozer or some sort of heavy piece of equipment,” Gromnisky explained.
“You build sections and you push across until it gets to the other side.”
Bridge pieces are bolted together and Gromnisky said the use of mechanical fasteners meant there was very little welding required.
The unique launching method also meant there was some additional construction required on site.
“You build a launching pad that has to support the whole length of the bridge,” Gromnisky explained.
“It sits on a metre of crushed and compacted gravel, and then we poured big concrete blocks. Once they were leveled on the compacted granular at the desired height needed to push across, we set the rollers upon them. Everything sat on solid, solid aggregate.”
Acrow’s galvanized steel construction is designed to last with minimal amount of maintenance.
The modular system makes them ideal for use in remote applications, like the Eastside Road project.
Modular construction offers several advantages including shipping entire bridges to a jobsite in pieces, and the ability to re-use bridges by disassembling, moving them to a new location and re-assembling.
Gromnisky said once the skeleton is pushed across, the bridge is jacked down onto the abutments and sixteen foot lengths of three inch by eight inch wooden timber is screwed onto the structure to complete the decking.
“They are fastened to six inch by six inch timbers,” he said.
“The decking runs along the length of the bridge and there is a certain pattern that the consulting engineers wanted us to follow when the deck timbers were screwed down.”
The three bridges where installed at locations which freeze late in the fall, and thaw early in spring.
By providing permanent structures to span their lengths, the Eastside Road Authority has managed to prolong the length of time the winter roads can remain open.
This extra time will allow more goods to be delivered to the east side communities along with more materials and equipment for the construction that will be continuing in the upcoming season.
Gromnisky said building the first bridge was the most challenging, but once they had gained the experience, the work got a lot easier.
“As we got to our third bridge it got much, much faster,” he said.