They designed and built many of the landmark bridges spanning Canadian waters, but when it came to the Champlain Bridge, the father-and-son engineers P.L. and Hugh Pratley lost a big part of the job to a low, exotic bid.
This weekend, roughly 55 years later, work crews are racing to install a â€œsuper beamâ€ and save the Champlain Bridge. Hugh Pratley, now 87, shakes his head at the memory of how the â€œinnovativeâ€ concrete girder design imported from Europe won over his plan to use traditional steel girders to build much of a 3.4-kilometre crossing over the St. Lawrence River.
â€œWe were ready to go with a similar design to the one my father used 30 years earlier on the Jacques Cartier Bridge, and then this crazy idea came in from France,â€ said Mr. Pratley. â€œIt cost less, so they took the cheapest bid. And now theyâ€™re paying for it.â€
The Champlain Bridge, which is among Canadaâ€™s busiest and is located in one of the countryâ€™s key trade corridors, was scheduled to be closed completely early Saturday morning so workers could install a 75-tonne steel girder to shore up a failing concrete beam. The federal bridge authority in Montreal plans to reopen the bridge with the brace until more permanent repairs can take place.
However, the only long-term solution is a new bridge that is expected to cost at least $3-billion.
Montreal is riddled with crumbling infrastructure, but the Champlain is emblematic of problems that have haunted the city for decades: Shoddy construction, neglected upkeep and jurisdictional squabble have contributed to create an emergency situation that could have been avoided.
At the root of the problem was the desire of the Progressive Conservative government under John Diefenbaker to save a buck.
Yeah, that does sound a lot Saskatoon. Â The only difference is that Montreal actually fixes it’s crumbling bridges while we just let ours fall apart.