Is Burrard Bridge decay a public safety issue?

Post by Mike Klassen in


That old Burrard Bridge is showing its 80 years these days

GlobalTV's Rumina Daya was on the hunt for answers to critical questions about one of Vancouver's most prominent, and aging pieces of infrastructure – the Burrard Bridge. While she found signs of decay in the form of chunks of concrete lying on the ground below the bridge, she didn't get very reassuring answers from the City of Vancouver as to what they're doing to address these safety concerns.

The video story above is alarming enough. The original news about this potential problem, and its link to another controversial project, was put together by none other than Alex G. Tsakumis. Alex's blog asks questions about whether the additional weight of several hundred standing concrete barriers put in place – which he calculates at about a total of 1.7 million pounds – is quickening the decay and increasing the safety concerns.

Tsakumis spoke with a structural engineer on City staff, Mr. Dane Dolman:

AGT: Would you say, then, that you’ve seen an increase of problems since the Burrard Bridge Bike Trial?

DD: Um, I don’t know if I would say that for sure, but I certainly couldn’t discount it. The barriers are a very heavy load, but the bridge was designed and upgraded to withstand constant pressure from loads exceeding what the bridge is currently carrying, although I cannot rule out that there has been an accelerated deterioration because of it (the bike trial). I’m now going to look into that. If what you’re hearing from staff is true, we might have a real problem. I had a conversation before the bike trial with quite a few people around here.

AGT: Are you telling me that you actually pointed out to the city that the load, due to the weight of the barriers, might create a problem and they ignored you?

DD: (Laughs) I just can’t divulge my internal communications, I’m sorry, that’s all. I’m sure you can appreciate that.

While it is clear that Mr. Dolman is caught off guard by the line of questioning, and we should not base any judgment upon one conversation, the matter of whether the Burrard Bridge repairs should be a priority for City Hall is hardly vague at all. Pieces are dropping off the bottom of the bridge regularly, and it took the inquiries of someone with a blog to get the City to admit that maybe some signage warning passers-by would be a prudent idea.

My colleague Daniel Fontaine says that he was receiving reports from Engineering staff about the bridge as far back as 2007. The proposed solution was going to cost the City just over $60 million, and it would have involved extensive repairs of the bridge deck and a new widened sidewalk on each side to permit both pedestrian and cycling lanes.

Guess who blasted it as a huge waste of money – you guessed it, our friends from Vision Vancouver. In fact, they attacked the NPA as though the $60 million was only for the bike lanes, when they knew that the work needed to get underway. Instead, we're stuck with Gregor Robertson's bike lane trial which they consider to be their greatest success in office.

By the time Vision finally presents its final report on the bike lane (a decision based upon a safety study they refused to release to the public, by the way) this summer, it will be months before this government gets moving on Burrard Bridge repairs that should have been done earlier. Heather Deal's knee jerk response is to enter the Blame the NPA message box, and today was no different.

The Bridge is crumbling, therefore blame the NPA. If Heather stubs her toe, does she think it's because Sam Sullivan made her do it? Anyway, folks, you get the picture. For Vision Vancouver decaying infrastructure isn't as sexy as photo ops with Richard Branson, or bragging about putting rotting lettuce in with your garden waste, so it's not high on their list of priorities.

- post by Mike


Rumina Daya picked up a peice of cement who knows where from saying it fell from the bridge. Did she see it fall or did she just pick it up from the trail and assume that it fell off the bridge. I walk along a path and see a peice of rip rap and I would claim that it fell out of the sky.
If she knew it came from the bridge why wasn't she wearing a hard hat? I don't think she would be couvered by worksafe BC if she got hit by a peice of cement.

Hey Billy Bob, feel free to spend some time under that bridge and see if you can find some pieces of concrete dropping on top of anyone. Look at Tsakumis' post, there's lots of proof that chunks are coming loose, and city staff are not denying it.

I know that I will make sure that I'm not under there any longer than I have to be, or at all.

Good story

I am glad that this is finally recieving attention it requires. This problem has been greatly exacerbated since the Jersey barriers were added.

I have a few questiosn that were not asked in the sory..

1) Didn't engineers do a stress analysis prior to the barriers being placed?

2) If such an analysis what were the results?

3)Why were there no "remediation" remedies (temporary or not) placed under the strcuture to ensure the safety of the public and boats?

4) If such an analysis was done and this has hastened an already crumbling structure, what were the results of that analysis?

5) Blaming the NPA for this mess doesn't wash.... They weren't the ones that placed the increased stress on the deck.

6)How long before a lawsuit against the City from a boat owner whose vessel is damaged or worse and even more serious, from a cyclist or walker under the bridge when they inadvertantly get hit by falling concrete.

Yet another example of.... nothing to see here, but look over here at the pretty garden by this callous administration at City Hall.

here's a novel concept to the clown show led by the Juiceman...

Fix the damn thing!

I can't wait for the movie version:

In this next scene, Gregor, you run into a phone booth and don your Superman tights and cape at super speed.

Then, you fly over to BC Place where you strip off the infateable roof which you then fashion into a giant hot air balloon. Again, all at super speed.

Then, with super breath, you inflate the giant balloon with super hot air breath and tie it to the Burrard Bridge to keep it from falling down.

But then, just as you do so, the bridge cracks in two when a mom and her baby stroller reach the mid point of the bridge. You fly underneath the bridge and push it back into place.

Then, with your laser vision (note: we're negotiating with George Lucas and ILM on licensing the FX), you weld the exposed rebar and fuse the failing concrete into a hardened mass.

Okay, Gregor, you got that?

Roll camera...

read Tsakumis' report. It is shocking.
The City and School Board are being run by a group of fools.

Since this bike trial is ALL about safety, I guess Vision should let everyone know that the only safety they are concerned about is for their cycling friends.

They certainly don't care about people and families using the seawall or who use the waterway underneath.

Screw you if you don't ride your bike to work in this city.

Ironically the concrete is falling onto the bike path below. Is there a message there?

Some interesting points made here:

According to the acting city engineer:

- the concrete is flacking off due to "spalling" - a result of water infiltration and freezing - not structural issues

- the weight of the barriers is similar to an extra lane of traffic

- there is no correlation to the "spalling" and the barriers

- the large chunk of concrete that was reported on the ped/bike path doesn't even seem to have come form the bridge

Sorry, r, but that's just spin. Who cares how the concrete is falling off? It's falling off!!! The fact that the city is putting netting up now in response to a news report is simple admission of the problem.

Remember the politics. Vision slammed the NPA for proposing changes to the bridge that included structural upgrades. Vision proceeded to add tonnes of weight to the bridge, and delayed the repairs while they did the bike lane trial. If someone is injured from falling concrete, the blame goes back to this council.

R (follow his self-promoting link) just happens to be Rob Baxter, and he's part of the Vision propaganda crew.

Anyone who wants to buy some carbon credits can buy them from one of Rob's companies.

Of course though he's too much of a coward to sign his name and admit his role with Vision.

How about it Rob, would you care to discuss your relationship with certain folks at city hall?

Care to mention any involvement in the Vancouver area cycling lobby?

Care to mention anything else about yourself, while leaving quasi-anonymous comments on the web in defence of Vision's careless disregard for public safety?

Hi Glen,

I am not sure I understand your comments.

I am not employed by Vision and never have been. I don’t recall writing anything in support of Vision so I am certainly not part of their “propaganda” crew. Please supply a link to support your reference.

As being anonymous I deliberately included a link in my signature that links to a web page that has my full name.

I assumed that since the hyperlink concept has been around for a couple of decades now people would know how to use that and would be able to find out my identity if they wanted.

But since apparently some people still find that concept confusing I have included my full name this time.

BTW, if you are clever enough to follow hyperlinks and use search engines you will eventually discover things I have written recently that are critical of Vision.

I love the Burrard Bridge bike lanes and hope they will be retained, enhanced even, once the current test is over. There has been a lot of squawking in the media by a handful of businesses who maintain that the changes have reduced the number of customers frequenting the area. Whether true or just the reflex actions of change-resistant business types is of little interest to me. What they should be doing is embracing the change, mounting bike-friendly events [discounts if you bike in, special delivery services for two-wheeled shoppers who spend over a certain amount, etc. ad nauseum]. Get creative guys. With all this whining going on I certainly can't see myself patronizing these businesses. I dine at Kettle of Fish once in awhile and I visit Art Knapp's every spring. This year I'll hold my nose and buy my plants at one of the big box retailers since the little box retailers can't seem to see outside of the box itself. In the case of Art Knapp's, the opening of the Canada Line, Canadian Tire and Home Depot on Cambie Street are probably having a bigger impact on retail sales than any bike lanes could ever have.

Change is going to happen with or without them on board. What needs to be done is make hard choices and it's heartening to see that the mayor and council are willing to make those choices rather than bowing to anachronistic interests. Thanks for pioneering a new way forward.

Check out!

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