Herb Gray Parkway builders back girder report 'in principle'

The more than 300 concrete girders that did not meet code but were used in the construction of the Rt. Hon. Herb Gray Parkway project will not be removed, for now.

Windsor-Essex Mobility Group says safety of parkway their No. 1 priority

Concrete girders used in construction of the Rt. Hon. Herb Gray Parkway project will not be removed.

The more than 300 concrete girders that did not meet code but were used in the construction of the Rt. Hon. Herb Gray Parkway project anyway will not be removed, for now.

Following a three-month review conducted by a committee of independent experts, Glen Murray, Minister of Transportation, announced he will proceed with one of the committee’s two recommendations.

The minister chose to salvage all of the approximately 500 girders manufactured by reinforcing the ones not yet installed and monitoring the condition of the ones already used. Those will be replaced if they crack before the expiry date.

Girders that have been installed will undergo “robust continuous structural health monitoring” the report said.

“In addition, an enhanced inspection regime by independent trained professionals is required to mitigate possible hazards arising from the deficiencies of the girders,” the report also said.

Leaving in the installed girders and reinforcing others not yet used was one of two options, the first of which was to replace all girders in question, including the ones that are already installed.

It was based on nothing other than safety or engineering.- Glen Murray, Minister of Transportation

In the report, the committee says it is impossible to tell if the girders are safe and durable without any remedial actions.

When asked about the rationale behind choosing the second decision, Glen Murray, the Minister of Transportation, stated it wasn't his decision to make.

"Those are engineering decisions, not political decisions. [The chief engineer of Ontario] drafted up, in consultation with other experts, a plan of action to meet the standards of the code," he said. "It was based on nothing other than safety or engineering."

Murray went on to say there is still a possibility some of the girders will be removed from the project, or not installed at all. 

The report only deals with girders fabricated by Freyssinet.  They are responsible for 935 of 1473 girders to be used in the $1.4-billion project. 

Mobility group agrees 'in principle'

The Windsor-Essex Mobility group disagrees with the findings of an independent report concerning the safety of girders made for the parkway.

In a media release, the group stated, “...WEMG disagrees with the content ... but in the interests of getting this important project back online and our people back to work, [we] have agreed in principle with the Government of Ontario to an additional set of measures concerning the [parkway].”

The group continued to state the firms involved in the project have a record of delivering quality projects and “would never compromise safety.”

The Windsor-Essex Mobility Group is responsible for designing, financing, constructing and maintaining the parkway over 30 years.

Another report to come

A supplementary report will deal with approximately 60 girders produced by Prestressed Systems Inc. and used in the North Talbot Bridge, which will remain closed.

Girders to be used in the Herb Gray Parkway sit in storage in west Windsor. (CBC News)

With respect to the Freyssinet plant, the first concrete for the girders was poured on Aug. 7, 2012 at which time the company was attempting to qualify for its requisite Canadian Standards Association (CSA) certification.

According to the report, girders fabricated at an uncertified plant are not permitted to bear the standard-setting CSA certification mark. Certification of the plant had been held up due to Freyssinet’s failure to comply with with the Canadian Standards Association.

However, despite there being no CSA certification at the time, Freyssinet continued to produce the girders, and, between Aug. 7 and Nov. 19, 2012, a total of 203 girders.

The Ministry of Transportation told CBC News first that it knew "late last year" girders didn't meet code and installed them anyway.

Murray said the girders were moved onto the construction site with the assurance to Infrastructure Ontario they were simply being stored there.

"That, in fact, turned out not to be the case. They were actually being installed. I heard about that in May. No one was talking to me," he said.

After a review process, installation was stopped in July 2013.

Opposition wants answers

In an interview with CBC News, Windsor-Tecumseh NDP MPP Percy Hatfield expressed his concern over the issue.

“If you bid on a contract and these are the specifications for the product that we want, and somewhere along the stage of that manufacturing process you change the way you’re building these girders, and you don’t tell anybody…then I think we have a real problem. “

Hatfield is also demanding answers from the province.

“Why was it allowed to happen in the first place? I applaud the minister for raising the red flag and putting a halt on it, but what was the delay period from the time he first found out about it until now?” Hatfield said.

The panel said no matter which option was chosen, it will cost money.

“In coming to these conclusions and making these recommendations, the IER Committee is mindful of the potential serious financial implications, time delays, and impacts associated with the issues under review," the report said.


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