Splits shut down Bailey bridge for repairs

The single-lane Braid Street Bailey bridge connecting New Westminster to Coquitlam’s United Boulevard will be closed for at least a couple of weeks as authorities look at options to repairing splits in its structure.

The wood bridge was supposed to be closed for 12 hours last Saturday for a structural assessment, the first to be done on the bridge since 2007.

That’s when it was discovered there were splits in two of its significant trusses where they are held together by steel pins.

The bridge has not been reopened to traffic since then.

City of New Westminster chief engineer Jim Lowrie said the problem would have been caused by “excessive loading” from all the heavy vehicle traffic that regularly crosses the bridge between the two cities’ industrial parks.

Lowrie said the engineers also conducted gamma ray testing on the remaining trusses to determine if they are suffering from fatigue and stress, but the results weren’t known as of the NewsLeader’s deadline.

On Wednesday he said the city was looking at a repair to get the bridge back in service sooner rather than later.

“I don’t have a timeframe of when that would be.”

Media reports this week stated that New Westminster unilaterally lowered the load limit on the bridge in January, but Lowrie says that doesn’t tell the whole story.

“To say we lowered it is not entirely correct,” Lowrie said. “There was no limit before.”

He said the 48-tonne limit imposed by the city was to meet the recommended specifications of the manufacturer, Acrow Bridges, based in Richmond.

Although New West is responsible for the maintenance and operations of the bridge it shares the costs with Coquitlam.

If it was to be replaced, both councils would have to approve.

Lowrie said he heard Coquitlam Mayor Richard Stewart on the radio calling for a multi-lane replacement, something that city has urged for a long time.

That would create an even worse traffic nightmare at Braid and Brunette than already exists, Lowrie said.

“I don’t think that would be in our interest at this time,” he said. “The traffic would be basically, in a day, be jammed at Braid Street and Brunette. With the multi-railway tracks there [the intersection] it simply would not able to handle the traffic that a multi-lane bridge would bring.”

He also disputed a report Coquitlam ordered the assessment. He said it was a joint decision because a review was overdue on the bridge built in 1995 since its expected service life span is 15 to 20 years.

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