Causeway demolition begins, completion expected by end of June

Priestly Demolition Incorporated begins the demolition of the LaSalle Causeway counterweight on Monday, Jun. 17, 2024. Photo by Daniel Tastard-Homer/Kingstonist.

The teardown of Kingston’s LaSalle Causeway is now underway, with the demolition of the bridge’s counterweight having begun on the morning of Monday, Jun. 17, 2024. Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC) says it expects the demolition to be completed by or before the end of June, but many questions on the minds of Kingston business owners and residents remain unanswered regarding what will happen after that.

When functional, between 20,000 and 30,000 vehicles and pedestrians crossed the bridge daily, and the bridge lifted regularly to allow for the crossing of marine traffic. But that came to a grinding halt at end of March, when severe damage was caused to the bridge during a scheduled repair.

PSPC tender contract records show that Landform Civil Infrastructures was originally contracted to repair the iconic “green singing bridge,” at a projected cost of $8.7 million, but repair work ceased abruptly on March 30, 2024, after visible damage was caused to one of the bridge’s diagonal structural members. PSPC has declined repeatedly to confirm whether the damage was caused while Landform Civil Infrastructures was working on the bridge, but Landform is no longer involved in the work being done. Instead, the demolition and removal of the bridge will now be undertaken by Priestly Demolition Incorporated (PDI), from King, Ontario, at a contract cost of $1.7 million, according to PSPC records.

PSPC held a stakeholders and media briefing on Friday, Jun. 14, 2024, outlining the next expected steps in the demolition and replacement of the bridge.

Since the incident, the bridge has been shored up structurally, said Stefan Dery, Director General of Asset and Infrastructure Management, Real Property with PSPC.

“There was some specialized equipment that was brought in… I’m sure the community has seen these, these are the red heavy lift cranes that in essence have supported the 600 ton counterweight, which allows us to, at the time, to advance the repair work,” he said.

That original repair work was set aside, however, after further examinations of the bridge condition after the damage that determined the bridge was irreparable.

Stefan Dery from PSPC provides a technical briefing to media and stakeholders on Friday, Jun. 14, 2024, regarding the LaSalle Causeway demolition. Photo by Cris Vilela/Kingstonist.

“There were some confirmations as it relates to a specific laser survey that was performed on the structure that, in essence, resulted us in pausing the repair process and advancing in a different direction, which is a demolition,” said Dery.

“So a couple of factors that ultimately led to the decision to demolish the bridge: one was the fact that we were looking at a scenario where there were extended delays associated with the repair process; there was an outstanding risk that even if the repair was successful, that the bridge would not lift; and finally, the structural incident in and of itself did reduce the lifespan of the bridge. So there were a couple of key components that led to the decision to demolish.”

“The process for awarding the demolition contract began on the 28th of May,” said Dery, who also noted the contract was awarded on the 5th of June.

“The contract itself has a target date for, in essence, the opening of the navigation channel for the 30th of June… The potential does exist for the early completion of the work. We have heard the community loud and clear in terms of the interest to see what we can do to accelerate the completion of the demolition work and get that channel open as quickly as possible.”

“We are looking at 12 hour shifts associated with the demolition work…We are currently in phase one or stage one, which is a temporary reinforcement of the damaged bridge element,” he continued.

“So this is required, in essence to shore up that structural element that was damaged, get to the point where you can start to remove the heavy lifting machinery, and that’ll allow us to get to stage two, which is the demolition of the counterweight.”

According to Dery, the counterweight, a 600-tonne piece of concrete, will be demolished in place. PDI will then cut and remove the counterweight truss, the supporting infrastructure that holds the counterweight, following which the remainder of the bridge structure will then be removed in one piece.

“That really signifies the point in time that the navigation channel will be open to traffic. There’s some residual on land bridge structures that will follow in terms of the removal of those particular structures. But in essence at a high level, that’s the sequence,” he said.

“We are working on a plan to reinstate access for all modalities and travel vehicles, cyclists, pedestrians, and obviously… marine traffic. One of the challenging items here is that, you know, this will be a compromise solution. It’s something that, at the end of the day… will not necessarily replicate the entire function of the bascule bridge, there are still a lot of unknowns with respect to the design, the functionality of the solution that we’re going to be putting in place, as well as the availability of the modular structure.”

“The other piece that’s running in parallel is the replacement of the permanent bridge,” Dery continued. “So we have started with some preliminary work, in terms of some internal resources, that is required to really start to advance what I would say is a preliminary business case. This will help inform the technical requirements, that will help inform the procurement model that we’re considering, and the project cost estimates for the replacement bridge… We plan to work closely with the City of Kingston… to make sure that the technical specifications and some of the requirements were the needs of the community.”

Several attendees at the meeting voiced concerns about the number of unknown variables and the nature of the “compromises” Dery referenced.

“I do need to ask, if we can, to get more information on what’s on the table and what’s not as it relates to the temporary structure. We’re calling it temporary, but I think it’d be realistic to speculate it will be there for years,” said Eric Ferguson, General Manager at Kingston Destination Group, which operates Kingston 1000 Islands Cruises, whose boats have contended with getting stuck “on the wrong side” of the bridge following the March 30 incident.

“The procurement for the new structure is going to take a while, and we cannot contemplate, of course, a solution that would block off the Rideau Canal from the world, that would block both emergency and scheduled access to the Davis dry-dock.”

Krista LeClair with Kingston Accommodation Partners cited similar concerns: “I’ll start by saying it’s a really good thing that we didn’t have this meeting yesterday because the 401 was closed down from an accident and none of us would have made it here… We understand that one of the solutions could be a bridge that doesn’t lift. And I’m just wondering, in your consultations with the City and all of the options on the table, if we have a commitment from you at this time on how many times we would lift that bridge throughout the year.”

Krista Leclair, Executive Director of Kingston Accommodation Partners, makes a statement during a PSPC technical briefing to media and stakeholders on Friday, Jun. 14, 2024, regarding the LaSalle Causeway demolition. Photo by Cris Vilela/Kingstonist.

“Short answer is no,” Dery responded. “But it’s something that we are looking into, in terms of what that appropriate sort of frequency is. There are some technical challenges associated with that, there are some financial implications associated with that. But that’s something we’ll continue to work with.”

Ross McCarney from Rockport Boat Line said his business is already feeling severe strain.

“We were actually one of the few companies that needed to have a five year annual inspection on our boats, and did not happen in the dry-dock yet, so we were unable to use that boat in the Spring. And then we had to file paperwork for a postponement, and essentially, to check the hull underneath. We now had to get divers underneath, we had to take pictures in water, because we didn’t have access to the dry dock,” he explained.

“So, we have that postponement in place now, but it will not be extended. So basically, we still have to get that boat into the dry dock this fall. I can’t get another extension. So my alternative is to, I guess, go to Quebec City, or Toronto, or Hamilton, and that’s extremely burdensome on our company… really isn’t a realistic option.”

“And I additionally have another boat that has to (have a five year inspection) this year, too,” McCarney lamented.

“So now I’ve doubled up my budget for this year to take two boats to dry-dock and I don’t even know if I can get in at this point and I’m trying to budget myself for potentially, you know, half a million dollars worth of work… it’s extremely stressful for our business. We need some form of timeline so I can figure out what I’m going to do and whether I have those assets next year. Because if I don’t, then that’s extremely devastating.”

Kingstonist will continue to provide updated coverage of the LaSalle Causeway situation as more information becomes available.

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