Now that traffic is back to normal and work on the Fifth Street Bridge structural rehabilitation project is nearly complete, Courtenay council received an update on the work that was done and why it was important.
Craig Armstrong, City project engineer, said that while the structural work was important to the longevity of the bridge, it’s not easily visible to the public during his report to council at Tuesday’s meeting.
“I know, with all the (traffic) delays, it’s not readily apparent what the work having been completed is, and at the end of the day, when you drive across the bridge you won’t notice a change in the physical appearance of the bridge itself,” Armstrong said, later adding the work was done at just the right time.
“The comment I received a lot from both contractor and consultant was that we’re doing this at the right time. We’ve got it early enough that there wasn’t significant structural degradation to bridge itself.”
Work below the bridge deck included repairing degraded coating and corrosion of connections. He noted the contractor — Mainroad South Island Contracting LP — sandblasted the connectors and recoated them to prevent further corrosion.
Armstrong also pointed out workers sandblasted from swing stages completely enclosed in tarps to prevent debris from falling into the Courtenay River.
The bridge deck was sandblasted to clean out the dirt and grime around the aggregate because it was too smooth and wasn’t providing very much traction for vehicles any more.
The bridge joints, which were specially made for the Fifth Street Bridge and delayed the project slightly, were installed one side at a time in order to keep one lane open to traffic.
Also, the bridge deck was injected with epoxy — a filling substance — due to a separation between two layers of concrete on the deck.
“The second layer I think was poured in approximately 1983, and over time there’s a delamination that’s occurred between the top layer of concrete and the bottom layer,” explained Armstrong. “When that happens it allows water to get in between the gaps, and when that happens during freeze thaw cycles, it can cause significant damage to the concrete.”
He noted the epoxy injections were an innovative and quiet method the contractor used, which allowed this work to be completed at night, avoiding further daytime traffic delays.
Armstrong noted there will be occasional single lane alternating traffic at night to finish sealing the deck and clean up the site, but major traffic delays are now complete.
The estimated total cost of the project, including engineering, traffic control and environmental consulting, will be about $400,000, according to Armstrong. He later told the Record the original $250,000 estimate was a construction only estimate from 2010.
Coun. Manno Theos thanked everyone involved in the project, noting he could see how important the structural improvements were.
“The structural enhancements — I can clearly see it’s going to add years of life and soundness to the bridge,” said Theos.
“Thanks to the public for their patience because it is a big challenge when you have the two bridges and one of them goes down for the repairs that are necessary, but it was well worth it.”
Mayor Larry Jangula added the next step will be to repaint the bridge, noting it was an election issue last fall.
Installation of the storm sewer mains on the Old Island Highway near the Lewis Centre are now complete as well, and no further traffic delays are expected, with the exception of road resurfacing and patching scheduled for the evening of Friday, Oct. 19.
The storm drain work cost about $390,000.