Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Canada’s Confederation Bridge

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Current image of the 13 km long Confederation Bridge

The six and a half kilometer Padma Bridge stands tall. Now just waiting for the burden to fall on the strong shoulders. Expert engineers and thousands of construction workers are working day and night to complete the bridge. When the construction of Padma Bridge is completed, Bangladesh will cross another milestone in infrastructure development.

Infrastructure development is the visible development of a country. Even if there is no invisible development in Middle Eastern countries like education, culture, social or human development, there is no need to point fingers at the visible progress. UAE, Qatar, Saudi Arabia are the envy of the West for their advanced infrastructure.

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Canada owns vast land resources, mineral resources and most freshwater in the world. Canada’s infrastructure development is insufficient to protect resources. Despite the TransCanada Highway, numerous freight trucks travel from Montreal to Calgary via the US route. Or from Prince Edward Island to British Columbia.

The province of Prince Edward Island is abbreviated as PEI by Canadians. Just 600 years ago, PEI was separated from the Canadian mainland. Located in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, the island is separated from the mainland by the Northumberland Strait. Airplanes and ferries were the means of communication. In winter, this channel is covered with ice. Ferries other than ice-cutting special type ferries are not possible.

Due to its relatively close proximity to Europe, the arrival of immigrants to this island was quite early. In 1873, the people here joined Canada as the seventh province. Two years before that in 1871, they built their own railway communication system. By establishing better road communication. Prince Edward Island has the densest road system in Canada by road length. That is, compared to the total land area, the amount of roads is the highest in this province.

A province rich in internal communications has long been isolated from the parent country. Finally, in 1997, the Northumberland Strait bridge was built, connecting it to the rest of the country.

A strait is not a river by geographical definition. The river originates in the springs and surrenders to the sea. But the strait remains one sea to another. Or connecting one part of the same ocean to another. The east-west flowing Northumberland Strait connects one part of the Gulf of St. Lawrence to another. To the north of the strait is Prince Edward Island, to the south are the provinces of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. In essence, the Northumberland Strait is part of a bay. Part of the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

Again the Gulf of St. Lawrence is directly connected to the Labrador Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. The Northumberland Straits is plagued by the splendor of two ocean waters. There is an ice-like appearance on the foot. In winter, several feet of water on the surface of this channel becomes completely frozen. So how challenging is the construction of a bridge in such an easily conceivable water body! The Canadians won that challenge.

The push to connect the islands to the mainland began as early as the 1870s, when a railway line was planned. Initially, the idea was to connect it to the Canadian mainland through a tunnel. Then train communication can be established. However, the tunnel plan had to be withdrawn due to technical advantages and economic realities. There are different offers at different times. There is much debate over the choice of venue. Breeze’s proposals effectively came to the fore during federal elections between 1950 and 1960.

However, the bridge project was hit several times by political and commercial considerations. Public and private investment in the ferry and steamer (steamship) industries hindered bridge construction. Finally, in the mid-eighties, Breeze’s proposal was finally accepted. A long-term environmental and environmental survey was then carried out. Upon completion of the study, in December 1992, a company named Strait Crossing Development Inc. was awarded overall responsibility for engineering design, project management and construction. At the point where the construction of the bridge is finalised, the length of the original bridge alone stands at 12.9 km. That is 100 meters less 13 kilometers.

Confederation Bridge under construction

It’s the turn of the bridge design. The famous bridge engineer John Mueller was given the responsibility of determining which type of bridge can be made more durable at a lower cost in terms of water movement nature, bearing capacity of the land under the river, daily traffic volume, wheel load etc. Engineer Jean Muller is French, but later worked as a consulting engineer in the United States. Settle there. He designed many bridges in the United States. He has extensive research on bridge design. He invented the match-casting method using epoxy to make dry joints of pre-cast concrete much stronger.

Almost all major bridges in the world are made of pre-cast concrete. Pre-cast concrete is a “concrete structure” that is cast from another location. That is, there is no need to weld standing in place. In this case the cast beams or slabs or girders are placed at the place of installation in a completely dry condition. Then two beams, slabs or girders as required are joined together with nut bolts. Epoxy is used when these bolts are driven into concrete. It makes the joint very strong. Reinforced concrete is as strong as the whole cast together.

Accomplished bridge engineer Jan Müller designed the bridge in his specialty of multi-span balanced cantilever system, which will be constructed with post-tensioned pre-cast concrete box girders. That is, each girder will be like a concrete box. 13 km long bridge will be made by connecting one to another. There are 62 piers or pillars in the bridge. Among them, the main 44 piers are located 250 meters apart. The height of the bridge from the water surface is 40 to 60 meters. The width of the 13 km bridge is 11 meters.

In October 1993, the contractor began construction according to Jan Müller’s design. Due to technical limitations of Strait Crossing Development Inc. joint venture with two other companies in construction. They are Ballast Nedham GTMI of the Netherlands and Northern Construction of Canada.

Various components of the bridge made of pre-cast concrete are placed on the ground by joint venture contractors. As required, they are removed by crane and replaced at the respective places of the bridge. Cranes are replaced by large ships in straits. Durable high grade concrete and reinforcement rods are used for pre-cast concrete. Pier bays, ice shields, main spans, drop-in spans are all made of pre-cast concrete.

Construction work was completed in April 1997 with the combined efforts of 5,000 workers including general labourers, specialist craftsmen, surveyors, construction managers and engineers. By that time, the entire 1 billion dollars had been spent.

The name of the bridge was not given. There was a lot of discussion about this during the project. The federal government appointed a naming committee in May 1996 with Prince Edward Island Premier Alex Campbell as chairman. Canada with 10 provinces and 3 territories. Everyone has land connection with everyone. The only exception was Prince Edward Island. Therefore, the bridge connecting the only isolated island from the vast federal empire called Canada was named Confederation Bridge. No one raised any objection.

Author: Professional Engineer. WSP Global Engineering Consulting firm operating in Canada.

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