More questions surface over bridge work

Courtney
Courtney Symons
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Strandherd-Armstrong contractors still engaged in legal fights

Several subcontractors say more problems are emerging in a $48-million bridge construction project already marred by controversy and delays.

The partially complete 143-metre-long Strandherd-Armstrong Bridge, seen last summer.

Sources say work on the Strandherd-Armstrong Bridge, which will connect the communities of Barrhaven and Riverside South, ground to a halt late last month and that several steelworkers were laid off. Others say the cold weather has created challenges with the bridge’s welding and threatens to place the project even further behind schedule.

Ironworkers Local 765, the Ottawa branch of a metal workers union represented by Don Melvin, has about 20 to 25 employees working on the job. Many non-union workers at the Strandherd-Armstrong Bridge were laid off in late January, Mr. Melvin said.

“There’s some stuff going on down there,” he said. When asked to elaborate, he declined and ended the interview.

Patrick Rochette, superintendent of bridge erector Montacier International Inc., told OBJ he couldn’t comment on the project but said construction had halted when he spoke to OBJ late last month.

“From my perspective, we’re pretty much at a standstill,” he said in an interview.

On Feb. 6, however, workers could be seen at the bridge’s construction site.

Separately, a former Strandherd-Armstrong Bridge contractor with ties to workers still on the job site said he’s heard reports of problems with the welding, requiring significant portions to be redone.

“Anyone familiar with the code would know that it’s virtually impossible to do (welding) outside in the wintertime,” said DCM Erectors general superintendent Gary Counsell. “You need to have no wind and no cold.”

To keep out the elements, much of the welding is being done beneath tarps elevated next to the bridge’s framework.

The claims could not be verified because industry and municipal officials refused to speak to OBJ about the project.

TROUBLED WATERS

The contract to construct the Strandherd-Armstrong Bridge was awarded to ConCreate USL in July 2010. At the time, officials said work would be completed by spring 2012.

Last March, ConCreate entered receivership, leading to a flurry of liens and lawsuits among a handful of subcontractors.

Work resumed under a new contractor, Horseshoe Hill Construction. That company appears to be headed by former ConCreate employees, a practice a local construction industry representative previously called “concerning” and “not good” for the industry.

DCM Erectors is one subcontractor caught up in the mess. It was hired by ConCreate to erect the bridge, but was replaced by Quebec-based Montacier after Horseshoe Hill took over the job.

Mr. Counsell is still waiting for the outcome of his legal proceedings against the city, which he alleges confiscated some of his equipment used on the project. His construction lien against Horseshoe Hill also has yet to be resolved.

QUIET CROSSING

OBJ made multiple requests to several Horseshoe Hill officials to discuss the company’s corporate structure. All were turned down.

City councillor Steve Desroches, a vocal proponent of the bridge who maintains a section on his website to provide updates on the project, did not respond to several interview requests.

Similarly, city officials did not respond to specific questions about faulty welding or work stoppages. Instead, the city’s media relations department provided a one-paragraph statement that said the bridge would be “substantially completed” by Aug. 31, and that further updates would be provided in the coming weeks.

“Construction on the Strandherd-Armstrong Bridge is progressing and all safety specifications are being met, including with respect to the welding. The financing of the project is stable and this project has a performance bond to guarantee project completion and to protect taxpayers from financial exposure to cost overruns,” the statement said.

SIDEBAR: BRIDGE BACKGROUND

The Strandherd-Armstrong Bridge will link the communities of Barrhaven and Riverside South across the Rideau River.

The completed bridge will span 143 metres and accommodate eight traffic lanes, two bike paths and two pedestrian sidewalks.

Source: City of Ottawa

Organizations: Montacier International, Horseshoe Hill Construction

Geographic location: Barrhaven, Ottawa, Horseshoe Hill

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