Lord Selkirk Bridge to be closed until mid-November

Lord Selkirk Bridge in Wallaceburg. January 30, 2019. (Photo courtesy of Google Maps)

Work on the Lord Selkirk Bridge in Wallaceburg is taking a little longer than anticipated due to component issues and previous deficiencies.

Municipal officials have extended the project completion date from October 2019 to November 12. The rehabilitation project, which started in February was originally expected to be done by August, however, an extension was announced in May.

Chris Thibert, director of engineering and transportation, said some recent findings have further extended the project length and bridge closure. With this being a rehabilitation project, Thibert said they had planned to salvage some bridge components, however, once they were able to get a closer look, they determined those components were not reusable as they had been designed to be. In order to correct this, Thibert said they had to do more extensive work than originally planned.

“The purpose of bridge rehabilitation is to utilize existing members of the bridge as best as possible to try and be as cost-effective as possible [while also] providing the maximum lifespan of the bridge,” he said. “There were access hatches above the mechanical rooms, we were hoping to reuse them but hey had to be demolished and completely removed and reconstructed so that was above and beyond the expected contract terms.”

Thibert said led paint had also been found along the bridge, which added time to the project as there are certain procedures that need to be followed when dealing with lead paint.

Although planning for this project had started well before the bridge was closed, Thibert said there’s only so much one can plan for. Sometimes there are factors that only come up once the project has started and crews are able to get a closure look at the structure.

“We do our best to try and determine what types of structural components of the bridge are able to be salvaged and reused but it’s not really until you get into the projects and start ripping things apart — until you are able to verify the condition of some of these components and whether or not they can be reused as planned,” he said.

The Lord Selkirk Bridge will remain closed to pedestrian and vehicular traffic until mid-November. However, water traffic will be permitted.

In terms of cost, Thibert said extra funds are set aside when dealing with large projects — especially rehabilitation projects — considering there are unknown factors that could result in additional resources or time needed.

“A contingency is provided along with the project and that is basically to address these unknown issues that come up,” he said. “Everything that has been identified in all of these delays, whether it be time and materials and resources required, it’s all being covered by that contingency so there is no extra money being spent ultimately as a result.”

Thibert said they do understand that there are several construction projects underway across Chatham-Kent that may be frustrating but ultimately it’s to keep safety in mind and improve existing infrastructure. Details about road and bridgework can be found on the municipal website.