Fulford Creek gets stronger bridge

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A 65-year-old bridge is being replaced on the south end of the island near Fulford Hall, since the current structure is unsafe for continued use.

Michael Bapty is replacing the bridge, which has been in place since 1952, because the pillars holding up the structure have become so waterlogged that it is unsafe to cross. Bapty purchased the property at 2611 Fulford-Ganges Rd. in 2017. The metal beams of the bridge have also rusted in the years of rain.

“If you look up the creek, there are all kinds of windfalls and whatnot,” Bapty said. “With winter storms coming and high tides  — the creek has about five feet of water in it at high tide — one of those things is going to break up, come loose and knock out the whole bridge.”

The new structure will be much stronger than the current wooden bridge. Sourced from Edmonton, the beams are made of doubly treated steel with a chemical base coat that is covered in a two-part epoxy colour coat, Bapty explained. The new structure will be sitting on pipes that will be cemented to the bedrock below.

“This is the kids’ heritage right here. The structural engineer looked at the design and said ‘I have to recommend that you inspect it after 50 years, but you absolutely have to inspect it after 75 years,’” Bapty said.

By comparison, the old bridge has been rebuilt three times since the original was completed in 1952. In those days, building a bridge was a much cheaper endeavour. Wood was inexpensive and so was labour. The deck of the old bridge is made up of 2×4 boards that are laid on end crossing the whole expanse. In the permit application, Bapty explained that the bridge required a major maintenance program every 20 years.

In 1996, the bridge collapsed as a fire truck was driving across it. The incident prompted a rebuild, but since then there has not been any work done on the structure.

The construction process involves building the new bridge over top of the old one and lifting it eight feet into the air.

“Then from the bottom of the new one we’re going to take off the top four feet of the old one and bring all of that up. Then we’re going to gently lower the new one into position on the old one,” Bapty said.

Heavy frames will be placed on the concrete abutments with reinforcement jacks that will carry the load of the bridge. When the new deck is lowered, it will be placed on the reinforced pillars. Though the bridge is privately owned and will only have slow-moving cars crossing it, it has been designed for much more than that.

Permits for the bridge were approved by the Local Trust Committee on Aug. 16. For the project to go ahead, approval was needed through the Water Sustainability Act to be able to do in-stream work. The project was granted a one-month window that ended on Sept. 15 to do the work. Bapty said that timeline was met.

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