Edmonton

Groat Road closed indefinitely by buckled bridge girders

"Groat Road must unfortunately remain closed until further notice," said Barry Belcourt, the city’s branch manager of the roads design and construction branch.

Investigation underway as crews work to repair or replace girders on 102nd Avenue Bridge

Investigation underway as crews work to repair or replace girders on 102nd Avenue Bridge 1:43

Paul MacDonald walked over Monday afternoon to see the massive metal mystery everyone is talking about.

"Seems incredible to me that they would bend," he said. "I mean, they're big, huge steel girders. How did they bend?"

It's a question on many minds today.

How did four steel girders laid in place over the weekend across Groat Road suddenly buckle, indefinitely shutting down a vital commuter route used by thousands of drivers every day.

The city must immediately conduct "a very serious investigation" to find out what happened, Mayor Don Iveson said.

"This is obviously very serious, very concerning," Iveson said after he learned that Groat Road will be closed indefinitely while contractors work to repair or replace steel girders on the 102nd Avenue Bridge.

"Obviously, a very serious investigation is going to have to happen here, and it's too soon to speculate on what sort of impact this will have on time-line or cost."

Crews worked all weekend on the $32-million bridge replacement project. At about 2:15 a.m. Monday, something went wrong and four girders buckled.

"Under the city's oversight, several engineering teams are investigating the situation to determine exactly what went wrong here," said Barry Belcourt, the manager of the city's road design and construction branch. "At this point in time, we are not able to identify a single factor that caused the girders to fail.

"Regardless of the cause, public safety is paramount, and we can't have anyone travelling underneath the bridge until it's safe to do so. Therefore, Groat Road must unfortunately remain closed until further notice."

As word about the girders spread, people converged on the work site to have look for themselves.

Henry Bosch was one of them.

"I was thinking, 'How is it possible for 40-ton girders like that to buckle?' Then I'm thinking, 'It's a really good thing it happened now, and not when the deck is on, I guess.' "

Groat Road was closed to all traffic starting at 7:30 p.m. Friday, so work crews could spend the weekend lifting and placing the massive steel girders.

The city originally planned to have the road open again by Sunday night. But commuters found Groat Road still closed Monday morning.

Not long after the morning commute ended, thousands of drivers learned the road will remain closed indefinitely. The city has promised to continue to provide public updates as the investigation proceeds, and said it will notify residents as soon as Groat Road can be safely reopened.

"I don't know what went wrong here but at least we caught it, whatever it is, at the construction stage," the mayor said. "This is as safety issue, and we need to get to the bottom of this as quickly as possible."

Groat Road connects north Edmonton with the university area and Hawrelak Park. In 2013, about 39,000 vehicles used the road each weekday. 

Commuters are asked detour during the closure by using Victoria Park Road, 149th Street to Whitemud Drive, and 109th Street to the High Level Bridge.

Can Edmonton build bridges better?  

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