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South Korea to Edmonton: Transporting the Walterdale Bridge arches

The new Walterdale Bridge could start to take shape in a few months, now that the long-awaited steel arches have finally arrived in North America.

Huge 200 meter arches to travel by sea and rail

How do you move a bridge?

7 years ago
1:07
The Walterdale bridge is getting closer to completion. But how does the city get the bridge's massive arches into place? 1:07

The new Walterdale Bridge could start to take shape in a few months, now that the long-awaited steel arches have finally arrived in North America.

The arches, which will span more than 200 meters, were constructed in Yeosu, South Korea and are set to arrive in Edmonton at the end of March.

The steel arrived by boat in Vancouver on February 13th, more than six months later than expected.

Allan Bartman, a general supervisor on the project, said the delay will make for a very tight construction schedule if the bridge is to open by fall 2015.

“We’ve lost a lot of float in the schedule. It certainly makes it a lot tougher now," Bartman said. 

“Had the steel arrived last summer there would have been a little bit more free time.”

Part of the reason for the delay was all the logistical work done in South Korea to prepare the arches for shipment to Canada and ensuring they met the city’s quality standards, Bartman said. 

“It’s all part of trying to reduce risk on the back end by spending time up front."

Turning the bridge into a jigsaw puzzle

Crews in South Korea constructed the arches on their sides to make sure all the pieces fit together. (City of Edmonton)
​Once the steel was fabricated in Yeosu, crews constructed the arches on their side to make sure all the pieces fit together.

Once in one piece, the arches were taken apart like a jig-saw puzzle to make them easier to transport. The largest piece weighs 100 tonnes and measures about 10 meters wide.

Steel arch struts packed for shipping in South Korea (City of Edmonton)
​Each piece was numbered, and shipped in the order needed for construction.

The first shipment arrived in North America in mid-February. The biggest pieces were sent to Everett, Washington, where the rail route to Edmonton has wider tunnels.

The smaller pieces were sent to Vancouver, B.C.

Each shipment will arrive at the Edmonton rail yards, before being delivered to the construction site by trucks.

The city hopes to have the steel needed for the project by the end of March.

Then the hard work begins

The logistical challenges of getting the bridge to Edmonton is only the first hurdle in a very complicated construction process.

Bartman said the construction method has not been done in Edmonton before.

Crews will build the middle sections of the arches, put them on barges, and then lift them into place.

Bartman hopes there won't be any more delays,

“There certainly are a lot of high-risk, if you want to call them, high-risk activities, and that would be floating the sections of arch across the river, doing the heavy lifts,” Bartman said.

The city hopes to open the bridge to traffic by Fall 2015. The existing bridge will then be demolished, and all remaining road and trail construction is scheduled to finish by late 2016.

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