Work is underway to rehabilitate the Bay of Quinte Skyway Bridge in southern Ontario, an intricate project with aggressive timelines which will take five years to complete.
The 17-span bridge, which is 847 meters long and about 100 feet above water level at the highest point, carries two lanes of Highway 49 traffic over the Bay of Quinte. The bridge creates a fixed link between Prince Edward County to the south and the mainland and Highway 401 to the north. Highway 49 north of the bridge crosses the Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory, located on the north shore of the Bay of Quinte.
Aecon Group Inc. is the general contractor on the project and is working for the Ministry of Transportation (MTO).
“The main challenge on this project is and will keep being the schedule,” explained Nuno Saramago, superintendent, structural, Aecon Construction Materials Ltd., in an email to The Daily Commercial News. “In order to complete all the work every year, it requires a lot of planning and coordination between all parties. The weather, and especially the wind, is another extremely challenging factor to take into consideration when it comes to operating 200 tonne cranes on barges with heavy suspended loads at 100 feet above the water level.”
The scope of the work includes complete replacement of the bridge superstructure, including deck and girders; reconstruction of bridge abutments and wingwalls; rehabilitation of piers; installation of skyway lighting on the bridge; and reconstruction of the road approaches to accommodate the rehabilitated bridge and construction staging. The bridge deck will also be widened slightly and will include 1.5 metre shoulders on each side.
The project is anticipated to extend the service life of the bridge and upgrade it to current design standards.
“The Skyway Bridge was built in 1967 and had some rehabilitation work in the late 90s,” said Saramago. “More recently, MTO decided it was time for major repairs as the structural components of the bridge were getting old and not in line with current standards.”
Preliminary work began in 2018 with preparation, mobilization and advance work but the first major portion of bridge replacement started this year and will take place over the next five years ending in 2023. For the project, the bridge is divided into five segments with each segment taking about a year to complete, starting with the middle of the structure. Each segment will include two stages — stage one will be the east side of the bridge and phase two will be the west side of the bridge.
The bridge will be replaced on a half and half basis in each segment with single lane traffic controlled by temporary traffic signals at each end of the work zone, Saramago explained.
“All the work is being done right beside live traffic as one traffic lane is operational the whole time,” said Saramago.
The expansion joints will be installed in 2024 along with some finishing work.
E.S. Fox Limited, one of the subcontractors on the project, is erecting the new steel girders that are replacing the old ones. Herman Winter, project manager, structural steel and bridge division, E.S. Fox Limited, said the project requires extensive planning and coordination and, as with any construction project, the on-going challenge is “timely communication.”
One feature that makes the project unique, he said, is the access method for the cranes and materials.
“For all the demolition and new construction work taking place over the water, two large cranes are being utilized, each on their own barge,” stated Winter in an email. “Placing and securing the cranes on the barge, access to the barges for manpower, moving the barges with cranes on them from the shoreline to the work area, having another modular barge system to load and transport the girders to the work area, securing the barges to the sea bed, etc. are all very unique challenges that the team has engineered and worked together on to overcome in order to safely and successfully build this bridge.”
Another unique aspect of the project is the size, length and weight of the girders, which are erected in pairs. Two girders, each comprised of three separate smaller girders bolted together on barges and lifted into place, are approximately 171 feet long and the assembled pair of girders weigh 69 tonnes.
“Segment C is the portion of the bridge that is located at the centre of the bridge along its length, its highest point,” explained Winter. “Girders were installed on the two main piers. The girders between the piers are what we call drop-in girders because they literally drop in between the girders that were previously erected.”
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