On Wednesday, chunks of ice fell from the Port Mann Bridge near Vancouver. About 250 vehicles were damaged and two people were injured by the chunks of ice. An additional 30 drivers reported damage on the nearby Alex Fraser bridge.
According to Wired.com, many of those living in the Vancouver area are extremely upset about the ice emergency and temporary bridge closing. That is because the Port Mann Bridge cost $3.4 billion to construct and just opened earlier this year.
Last week’s storms were the first real-world tests of the bridge’s performance in inclement weather, and already politicians are holding the contractor responsible.
The contract for building the new Port Mann Bridge stipulated that the “cables and structure shall be designed to avoid ice buildup from falling into traffic.”
In order to meet the standards of the contract, contractor Kiewit-Flatiron, wrapped the cables with plastic sheathing to stop ice buildup, but the design failed.
Kiewit-Flatiron will have to pay for any and all repairs to the bridge and damaged cars.
“This is the responsibility of the contractor,” said Mary Polak, BC transportation minister. “The taxpayer will not be on the hook for this.”
“When you purchase a product in a store, when you build a bridge for $3.3 billion, you believe that it will work. You expect it will work. When it doesn’t work you seek for redress to that. You seek for someone to refund your money or you seek for someone to resolve the problem.”
The Crown agency, the agency responsible for building the Port Mann Bridge, has already reimbursed drivers for any insurance deductibles they’ve paid for damage caused by falling ice.
The tolls for travelers crossing the bridge between 10 am and 6 pm have also been reimbursed.
According to the Huffington Post, more than 100 insurance claims have already been filed since the incident.
Ice, though uncommon, does occasionally build up on the cables of bridges. When that happens, it can pose a big threat to any motorist traveling below.
Chunks of ice fell from the Veterans’ Glass City Skyway in Toledo, Ohio in 2007, 2009, and 2011. In each case, the bridge was closed until the ice melted.
Similar problems have occured on the Tacoma Narrows Bridge in Tacoma, Washington and the Zakim Bridge in Boston, Massachusetts.
However, other than the Port Mann Bridge, no other bridge has seen so much falling ice damage so many cars in such a small amount of time.
Mike Proudfoot, CEO of the Transportation Investment Corporation which operates the bridge, said:
“We have the best firms in the world engaged in the design and delivery of this project, both as the original designers and as the independent checkers.”
Some possible solutions to the ice problem include heating the cables or the use of vibrations or coatings as well as manual and mechanical methods for removal.