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September 5, 2007

Movements of the self-propelled modular transporters (SPMT's) are controlled by way of a joystick on a control box. It takes a steady hand since there isn't a lot of room for error.

TERRY TINKESS

Movements of the self-propelled modular transporters (SPMT's) are controlled by way of a joystick on a control box. It takes a steady hand since there isn't a lot of room for error.

Infrastructure

Ottawa deploys new bridge using rapid technology

Joystick controller removes old bridge and sets new one in place

It took a little longer than expected, but the aging highway 417/Island Park Drive overpass has been removed and replaced with a new structure that comes with a 75-year life span.

The installation, using rapid-replacement technology, is expected to save the province approximately $2.4 million compared to traditional methods that would have taken an estimated two years to complete.

It would also resulted in a massive transportation headache for Ottawa-area commuters who use the Queensway on a daily basis, and who would have been forced to deal with prolonged delays, detours and the adverse effect on the environment from the exhaust from vehicles moving slowly through a construction zone.

Rapid replacement technology is a construction staging technique where a new structure is being constructed in an enclosed area adjacent to the location where it is to be installed, and then moved to its final location at a predetermined time.

Dufferin Construction has the main contract for the job. McCormick Rankin is responsible for the new decks built in staging area next to the bridge.

The existing bridges, which were built in 1959, were detached and then lifted from their supports by self-propelled modular transporters (SPMT’s.) supplied by and operated by Dutch engineering company Mammoet.

The vehicles used in this project have 18 axles, with eight wheels per axle. The SPMT’s are guided by an operator who walks in front of them, guiding their movements with a control-box mounted joystick.

The new bridge sections weigh approximately 650 tonnes, or approximately the weight of a fully loaded Boeing 747.

The process was delayed only slightly by a problem with a hydraulic hose, according to Frank Vanderlaan, a senior project engineer with the Ontario Ministry of Transportation.

According to the original timetable, one lane in each direction was scheduled to be open in each direction by noon, with the eastbound lane opening first by 11 a.m. The eastbound lane opened more than one-half hour late and traffic was not flowing in both directions until almost 1 p.m.

The project grabbed the attention of Ottawa residents, who came out in the thousands to witness a bit of history being made. The removal/replacement of the Island Park Drive overpass is the first time this technology has been used in Canada.

Curious onlookers started showing up at a staging site set up with bleachers by 3 p.m., a full five hours before the removal was scheduled to begin.

Many spent the night along side Island Park Drive, watching anxiously as first the old structures were removed and the new ones were installed in their place.

While it is the first time in Canada that a highway bridge replacement has been completed using rapid-replacement technology, it won’t be the last.

Rapid replacement technology will also be used for the Clyde Avenue overpass in 2008 and the Carling Avenue eastbound and westbound bridges as well as the Kirkwood Avenue bridges in 2010.

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