Sudbury’s Big Fix: Aging bridges exceeding lifespan

CBC News has learned at least a dozen bridges in Greater Sudbury have now exceeded their lifespan and more are reaching that mark.

Data from city bridge inspections recommend about $6.4 million worth of repairs in 2013

CBC News has learned at least a dozen bridges in Greater Sudbury have now exceeded their lifespan and more are reaching that mark. 

At 83 years of age, the Canadian Pacific Rail Subway — located at College Street and Frood Road — is showing unnerving signs of wear, including crumbling concrete, rusting steel and water stains.

According to 2012 bridge data obtained by CBC News, a typical bridge is expected to have a lifespan of 50 years.

The CPR Subway currently ranks the lowest on what is known as a bridge condition index, a tool used by the province and municipalities as a way to help prioritize repair work.

Bridges with a score above 70 are in good shape, while those below 70 need repairs in the next five years.

Scores below 60 indicate the bridge should be fixed in the next construction season.

The CPR Subway earned a score of 34.5 in its last inspection, however it’s not first in line to be fixed.

‘Excellent shape’

While the index is used to help prioritize repair work, it is not related directly to safety.

The city’s roads director said the CPR Subway is structurally sound, even though passers-by might think otherwise.

David Shelsted is the road's director in Greater Sudbury. He says a rail bridge at College Street and Frood Road may not look good, but says it's in excellent shape. (Megan Thomas/CBC)

“It’s basically … esthetics,” David Shelsted said. “So it might not look very good, but it is in excellent shape.”

With competing demands and tight budgets, Shelsted said the city must squeeze the full life out of bridges, unsightly or not.

The cost to rehabilitate the CPR Subway is pegged at $2.1 million.

However, it will likely cost much more to do the work, as Shelsted said the city wants to redesign the low, narrow structure.

He said it is expected to last until it is replaced, sometime within the decade.

Even though the bridge is used by trains, Shelsted said the city will pay the bill to fix the bridge because the tracks were there before the road it crosses over.

More than a dozen bridges in the city fall into the "needs work now" category.

Data from bridge inspections for the city recommend about $6.4 million worth of repairs in 2013, and exceed the $4.5 million that was budgeted.

For more on the condition of bridges and culverts in Sudbury, stay tuned to CBC’s Morning North radio program this week for our special coverage called Sudbury’s Big Fix.

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