After 50-plus years of studies, the above-water form of the $180-million Third Crossing bridge over the Cataraqui River at Kingston is taking shape, with installation of massive concrete girders for the super structure now under way.
Ninety-five reinforced girders, manufactured by DECAST at a plant near Barrie, will support the bridge deck. At 180,000 pounds and over 150 feet long, they are some of the longest and heaviest concrete girders ever built for a transportation project in Ontario.
“We are at about the halfway point of the pier caps being constructed,” says Mark Van Buren, deputy commissioner of the major projects office at the City of Kingston. “The west abutment was completed in late April, and the east abutment will be finalized before summer. That would conclude the sub-structure works.”
Once completed, the new 1.2-kilometre bridge will connect the east and west sides of Kingston over the river. It is the largest transportation investment in the city’s history.
Crews began working on the in-water part of the project in June 2020. The bridge foundations and in-water piles were completed two months ago and installation of the concrete girders started in March.
To support the bridge, caissons have been cored into depths of over 40 metres to embed into solid gneiss bedrock.
The superstructure component was started in February. Concrete girder installation continues and the first of 48 pieces for steel erection for the main span started in mid-March. Some pre-cast concrete deck panels have been installed and component installations are moving along.
“It gets a bit windy and some crane picks were put on hold but are made up on subsequent good weather days,” Van Buren says. “Deliveries of major components such as concrete girders, steel girders, deck panels, expansion joints, formwork materials, stormwater pipe, etcetera, continue to keep feeding the work.”
Ironworkers, formworkers, labourers, crane operators and surveyors are working on site, just to name a few of the trades. Various types of cranes and heavy equipment, including excavators, dozers, rollers, loaders and telehandlers are also on hand.
As part of the project, a temporary bridge over the navigation channel was built and will remain in operation this year. The temporary bridge allows the team to move equipment from the east to the west shore in order to continue building the permanent bridge. The temporary bridge is in an “open position” allowing boaters to safely pass underneath with a minimum clearance of 6.7 metres.
Kiewit and Bauer Foundations recently won a Transportation Infrastructure Innovation Award from the Ontario Road Builders Association for the project. It acknowledges the team’s use of innovative building techniques and methods, such as a lift bridge instead of a drill rig, and a rock causeway over the navigation channel.
The bridge is jointly funded by the Government of Canada, the Province of Ontario and the City of Kingston. The city is using an Integrated Project Delivery (IPD) model for the design and construction of the bridge. Kiewit is the contractor and Hatch and IBT SYSTRA are the designers.
Van Buren says the City of Kingston chose the IPD model to ensure the project was delivered on time and on budget.
“In this model the budget of $180 million is set and the city, contractor and designer work together to deliver the project within that budget. Together all partners share the risk and reward to deliver the best possible project. The city is the first in Canada to use an Integrated Project Delivery model for building a bridge.”
The project is on budget and scheduled to be completed at the end of 2022. But it has had its share of challenges due to COVID-19.
“There were uncertainties with how the government would categorize the Third Crossing, but we kept working with the supply chain and vendors to put procedures in place that would permit continued work if we were deemed essential works,” says Van Buren. “Fortunately, the Government of Ontario deemed the Third Crossing as essential and since all of our health and safety plans had COVID protocols, we were prepared in advance of the announcement and the project team was able to keep on schedule with minimal disruption.”
A combination of buried and deep bedrock and low boat draft also created a challenge as the river was too shallow for a barge yet too deep and expensive to install a full trestle. The team engineered a causeway-trestle solution which provided a combination of rock causeway and steel trestle for a working platform to build the bridge.
The project is creating an economic benefit for the region, jobs for local trades and sales for local businesses. The city has worked with local unions and is purchasing local materials where possible.
So far, nearly $8 million has been paid for 70 local contracts. Crushed rock for the causeway and embankments, cast-in-place concrete for the caissons and upcoming deck pours, walls and abutments, and lumber for formwork are from local vendors.
The city is also doing presentations at schools to share stories from the design and construction sectors about the project.