Before an Edmonton bridge's steel girders buckled in March, officials in the Canadian city and project contractors were already facing a long delay on another, more important bridge project there.
The construction team working on the Alberta provincial capital's new Walterdale Bridge, a steel arch span across the North Saskatchewan River, won't complete its work until fall 2016, a year past the scheduled finish, city officials announced April 8.
Project contractors face late-completion penalties of $10,000 a day, up to $5 million.
An executive of the construction team and city officials both cited problems with steel fabricator Daewoo International as the cause of the delay.
So far Daewoo has managed to deliver only half of the steel needed for the arches, with the first 22 steel sections finally showing up in March, nearly a year after they were first due, say the executive and city officials.
The remainder of the crucial steel, set to be carried on barges across the Pacific from Daewoo's manufacturing facilities in South Korea, has yet to arrive.
Daewoo officials have not made a public reply or comment on the cause of the delays. So exactly which party bears responsibility remains unclear.
The Walterdale bridge problems have been a slow burn compared to those on the new bridge at 102nd Avenue over Groat Road, where the trouble erupted literally overnight when deep girders buckled soon after being set in place. In the days that followed, traffic on a busy thoroughfare had to be rerouted for long periods.
Designed to replace an aged existing bridge alongside the jobsite, the Walterdale span has a $155-million budget. It consists of two 56-meter-high steel arches. Each spans 206 m and is supported by thrust blocks on each river bank. The arches angle in toward each other and are connected with steel struts. Cables suspended from the arches help support the road deck.
On April 8, Barry Belcourt, the city’s road and bridge construction chief, announced at a press conference that the opening of the new Walterdale Bridge would be delayed a year.
“We are disappointed that the new Walterdale Bridge will not open to public service in fall 2015 as we had anticipated,” he told reporters. “The major issue is the steel being delayed.”
The delays in the steel delivery, in turn, have created major headaches for the project’s general contractor, the Acciona/Pacer Joint Venture, or APJV, that consists of Spain-based Acciona S.A. and Pacer Corp., Calgary, Alberta.
In a press release issued with city officials, the joint venture said the missing steel caused it to miss “several project milestones.”
"The APJV is disappointed that construction is delayed due to issues with the structural steel manufacturer,” said Rachel Garcia, managing director for Acciona Infrastructure Canada. “The APJV has implemented, and will continue to implement, various mitigation strategies to resolve these challenges.”
The delays are expected to trigger heavy fines for the joint venture, which has assumed “full project delivery risk, including penalties for schedule delays,” Belcourt said.
The $10,000-a-day penalty starts in June and continues until the bridge's opening.
It is unclear exactly what is causing the steel delivery delay. City officials had previously blamed the project's complexity.
Ryan Teplitsky, the city manager who is overseeing construction, told the Edmonton Journal in January that both the city and the contractor have teams in South Korea to check on the quality of the steel being fabricated.
Each steel section has been "trial assembled" at the fabrication facility.
At the jobsite, crews are continuing to backfill the cofferdams and are finishing work on the concrete bridge support legs, city officials said.
After that, work will begin on preparations “to launch the central arch pieces across the river later this year,” city transportation officials said in a statement.
According to a published account posted on a city website, the first small shipment of arch steel arrived in mid-January.
The second arch steel shipment arrived in March, and the remaining steel pieces, including the arch rib bases, will be sent later in the spring. The sections will be assembled in lay-down areas on both sides of the river.