Commanda Bridge: Another Failed Big City Project

 

Ottawa was dumbfounded on Tuesday after seeing the breathtaking ineptness of Ottawa City Council and staff in having to close the Commanda Bridge over the winter.

That’s another $23 million wasted on yet another municipal botched major project.

It’s not that staff is wrong in closing the bridge given the materials used. Rather the lack of planning and communication with the public is astounding.

Let’s make it brief. How do you build a bridge that not prepared for winter in one the world’s most inhospitable cold-weather climates? How is that possible?

We pay these people good money to represent our interests and they either represent their own interests or just screw it up.


There’s the $6.4 billion on an LRT that doesn’t work. There’s $419 million on Lansdowne during a high-interest-rate period that appears to benefit most everyone but the tax-paying public.

But there’s more.

Three bridges prior to these monstrosities above foretold the ridiculous incompetence of Ottawa City Hall dealing with large projects. The Vimy Memorial Bridge had to have its welds fixed before it opened. That’s a lot of welds. The Airport Parkway pedestrian bridge had to be rebuilt because it was structurally unsound. And the Hurdman Bridge had to be repaired because of structure problems.

But that’s not all.

The Combined Sewage Storage Tunnel, weighing in at $232 million, built to stop sewage overflows into the Ottawa River, overflowed. Someone forgot that the power goes out now and then in Ottawa and there was no contingency plan in place to deal with that.

And yet here’s another faux pas.

Your agent was talking to a senior planner and administrator for the LRT project a few years ago and I asked if the stations were heated. A very long pause ensued. It appeared no one had thought of it. A grudging “no” eventually came out after a long wait.

The City of Ottawa keeps screwing up but residents keep electing the same people and the same incompetent and scheming staff continue to screw it up and scheme.

How do you miss … how can you possibly miss … that you must construct the bridge so it is suitable for winter?

All this for $23 million. Seems a tad high. City staff in a report said it would cost $40 million to put light rail across the Commanda Bridge. Former mayor Jim Watson said LRT on the bridge would cost $100 million and the city couldn’t afford that. It was more like, for some reason or other, Watson didn’t want rail on the bridge. One wonders how the mayor feels about regular $100 million contingency funds for his failed and very late light-rail initiative?

Piecing together what is in the release on the closure and the history of the bridge, you can see why salt is out of the question for winter use.

The then-Prince of Wales Bridge was built from 1880 to 1882. Steel was in its infancy in those days so much of it would have been built with iron. When it is exposed to salt, iron lasts from two to five years before corrosion begins to appear and the structure integrity of the bridge comes into question. Subsequently steel was probably used for upgrades and repairs. It is more resistant to corrosion than iron.

Wooden planks used on the bridge, exposed to salt, will begin to breakdown by between two to five years.

Trains, because of their enormous weight, that once used the bridge didn’t need salt to clear the tracks. Accordingly, the bridge corroded very slowly.

Using the materials there now, the bridge would need major repairs in two to five years if salt were used on it. Salt is very corrosive. Even concrete is harmed by salt and so too asphalt.

Even without using salt, one wonders how long the plank portion of the bridge will last given all the moisture around it.

So Ottawa City Council and city staff have created an only partially usable big project that is likely to be a sinkhole for maintenance and repairs.

Another major city initiative has failed.

Ken Gray

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5 Responses

  1. The Voter says:

    Do they actually have any engineers on staff at the City any more? If so, they badly need to check their qualifications. If this wasn’t so crazy and irresponsible, it might be comic.

    Maybe we need to have a new column in the Sunshine List chart. We know how much we are paying these people to carry out their incompetent work. Let’s add a column for what their mistakes and oversights cost the City.

  2. Bruce says:

    A bunch of BLUNDERING chefs cocking up most everything they touch. Aided and abetted by inept council and mayor. What next?

  3. Andrew says:

    GREAT LIST, Three more: 1) The Police allowed large trucks to park in front of government infrastructure and said the “trucks” had a constitutional right to be there, and and never searched them on the way in, then let them bring in fuel to prolong the occupation. (costing taxpayers millions. 2) the city legal office showed they did not know the law, especially the criminal code, (section 63) and the National Defence Act, in which the city is responsible to know as part of the responsibility of being legal council for a large city. then they contract an outside law firm to do the basic legal work costing millions. 3) the city is selling Lansdowne Parkland permanently to the developer. When asked, they said “no” it was not going to happen on day one of the council meeting, then the next day admitted it was! All to Say the city has a overabundance of ineptitude and from the mayor down, they do not know what they do not know! (or intentionally act against the taxpayer)

  4. Merrill Smith says:

    No Andrew, they’re not selling it. That would at least mean some money coming back to the city. They’re giving it away, with a cash subsidy as icing on the cake.

  5. The Voter says:

    Andrew,

    I think some of them know only too well what it is they want us not to know. They put a lot of effort into ensuring that only the-truth-according-to-them gets out of the bunker. Sometimes it takes a great deal more effort to lie than to tell the truth but, as we saw with the LRT inquiry, it doesn’t matter because, even if you get caught, there are no consequences ever.

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