47 concrete structures in Quebec raise red flags

Quebec Transport Minister Sylvain Gaudreault says 47 structures needed immediate attention. Of those, 11 are in Montreal — and five of those are on the Turcot Interchange.

605 inspections conducted after concrete fell onto Highway 40 from overpass above

Inspectors check an overpass in Montreal for cracks and other signs of damage. (Radio-Canada)

The provincial government just wrapped up 605 overpass inspections following an incident on January 13th in which a piece of concrete fell off an overpass onto a car travelling on Highway 40 — and Quebec Transport Minister Sylvain Gaudreault says 47 of them needed immediate attention.

Of those structures flagged for needing immediate attention, 11 are in Montreal — and five of those are on the Turcot Interchange.

Where the 47 structures are

  • Montreal (11)
  • Eastern Townships (10)
  • Chaudière-Appalaches (6)
  • Mauricie-Centre-du-Québec (6)
  • Outaouais (5)
  • Montérégie (4)
  • Quebec City (2)
  • Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean (2)
  • Laval (1)

Still, Gaudreault said the inspections and repairs were a precaution, and the structures that were inspected are safe to travel on.

“I am telling citizens and motorists that the structures are safe,” he told Radio-Canada on Sunday.

Civil engineer Normand Tétreault told Radio-Canada that given the 605 inspections were done over such a short period of time, it’s likely that the work carried out for the 47 structures that were identified as needing immediate attention mainly consisted of removing loose pieces of concrete and making sure the roads were clear.

Better inspection during weather fluctuations

Last Monday, chunks of concrete fell off the Henri-Bourassa overpass near Hymus Boulevard onto the highway below, causing flat tires for some and a severely damaged hood and windshield for one car in particular.

Concrete fell from an overpass and damaged a car passing underneath on Highway 40. No one was injured and inspectors say the overpass is structurally safe. ( Claude Bonin)

No injuries were reported, but the Jan. 13 incident caused the complete closure of the westbound Highway 40 for several hours, resulting in major traffic delays.

Transport officials blamed the falling concrete on fluctuating weather and water that had seeped through the concrete.

“The weather contributes to the degradation of our infrastructures,” said Tétreault.

Gaudreault said Quebec’s aging infrastructure means the Transport Ministry has to change the way it operates when it comes to inspections and ensuring structures are safe.

From now on, additional safety precautions will be taken whenever there are rapid temperature changes.

The minister said the Quebec government has already earmarked $2.6 billion for road work in 2013-2015.

Quebec has 5,314 bridges and overpasses, and Montreal has 485. According to a Transport Ministry report from 2012, these structures have an average age of 37 years and 70 per cent of them are in good condition.