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Use of Geospatial Technologies in Construction of New Champlain Bridge Corridor Proves Time Efficient

Signature on the Saint Lawrence Group Consortium was chosen to construct the New Champlain Bridge Corridor in Canada at a cost of CAD 2.15 billion. The Consortium used an array of digital technologies ─ including Drones, 3D Modeling Solutions (BIM), and Prefabrication Methods ─ to achieve the stringent 42-month timeline.

Artist’s Impression of Champlain Bridge, Montreal. ©'Signature on the St Lawrence'

The New Champlain Bridge Corridor project encompassed the construction of the 470 m long L’Île-des-Sœurs Bridge. It also included the widening of Highway 15 (which connects the Atwater interchange with the new bridge), improvement of ramps from Highways 10 and 132 on the South Shore to the bridge, and the construction of an enhanced multi-use path for pedestrians and cyclists throughout the corridor. The overall cost of the New Champlain Bridge Corridor project, as sanctioned by the Government of Canada, was CAD 4.239 billion, of which the construction of the bridge itself was CAD 2.15 billion.  

Why was the bridge needed?

The original Champlain Bridge was constructed back in the 1960s, but its condition began to deteriorate in the fall of 2013, which called for quick remediation and reconstruction measures. Several factors, such as the damage caused by de-icing salt combined with regularly increasing traffic, were the major contributors to the bridge structure’s wear and tear. As a result, the governing authority, Infrastructure Canada, initiated the process of identifying possible modular construction solutions to reconstruct the bridge. In this context a pre-feasibility study was conducted, wherein the design models of the Bridge took into consideration the traffic demands, transportation needs, implementation modes, environmental aspects, and financial consideration. The pre-feasibility study indicated various possible options, out of which replacing the structure with a new design was decided upon.

Challenges in the re-design and re-construction

The stiff project timeline of 42 months posed several engineering challenges, coupled with the site’s local geological condition, harsh climate and seismicity. The project timeline coincided with other major road projects, including work on the Turcot Interchange and the Bonaventure Expressway. This eventually made the design team take up specialized studies on seismicity, wind, vessel collision, scour potential, and ice loading, among others, for delivering a stable design.

Project brief

Opened to traffic in June 2019, the 3.4 km long New Champlain Bridge has become a landmark gateway to the city of Montreal. The bridge spans the St. Lawrence Seaway and links the marine traffic from the Great Lakes to the Atlantic Ocean, while connecting three major highways en route. The construction activities on the bridge commenced in May 2015, with a 42-month completion timeline ending in June 2019. The construction of the bridge included a three-corridor design involving two three-lane passageways for vehicular traffic and a two-lane transit corridor with a provision for light rail transit if planned in the future. Provisions were also made for cyclists and pedestrians to travel safely, while enjoying exceptional views of the city, along the multi-use path on the northbound structure of the Champlain Bridge.  

Built on a public private partnership (PPP) model between Infrastructure Canada and the Signature on the Saint Lawrence Group Consortium, the project was meant to become a key thoroughfare for both people and goods. The Signature on the Saint Lawrence Group Consortium included SNC-Lavalin, along with partners ACS and HOCHTIEF, and was responsible for the design, construction, financing, operations, and maintenance and rehabilitation of the project.

The new multi-use pedestrian and bike path on the New Champlain Bridge
Stakeholders involved
Client: Infrastructure Canada
Contractors Signature on the Saint Lawrence Group (A consortium of SNC-Lavalin, along with partners ACS and HOCHTIEF)
Bridge Design Team SNC-Lavalin TY Lin International International Bridge Technologies
Architects Arup Canada, in collaboration with the Danish firm Dissing+Weitling and Provencher Roy & Associates Architects
Independent Engineer Stantec and Ramboll consortium

Prefabrication and 3D modeling used to achieve project timelines efficiently

To keep the design and build processes lean and efficient, the team used 3D modeling, that is, BIM Solutions, which enabled revision and manipulation of the design document throughout the design, fabrication, and construction phases. The use of BIM Solutions enabled multiple departments to work in collaboration, allowing different parties to access the documents in a coordinated manner.

A 3D inspection of the complete bridge span was undertaken using laser scanners, before installing the bridge truss, with all scans georeferenced. The 3D scans were subsequently followed by the creation of 3D models in BIM to support the manufacturing and installation of the bridge truss. The bridge construction process was monitored using Drone solutions. The imageries collected via Drones helped the construction teams to efficiently align the activities based on challenges faced on the project site.

The structural health of the Champlain Bridge was closely monitored by Mageba SA, a globally present specialist and manufacturer of high-end structural bearing. With 255 sensors (measuring position GPS, structural temperature, corrosion, strain, displacement, vibrations, tilt, weather conditions, and visibility) and 26 data acquisition units, connected by 15 km of cabling, the monitoring process started in 2016.

To enhance the project delivery process, the Consortium used Prefabrication processes to meet the challenging timelines. This included assembly of the concrete and steel parts, on-site and off-site. This enabled the project crew to erect 44 precast segments of the main span’s lower tower leg in only 36 days, saving time in project scheduling and delivery.

Current activity: installation of Intelligent Transportation System (ITS)

As part of the modern infrastructure project, SICE Canada a system integration technology company, is installing an Intelligent Transportation System (ITS) This includes installing 5 Dynamic Message Signs, 60 Lane Control Signs, 24 CCTV cameras, a Roadway Weather Information System, a Weight-in-Motion system at 3 locations, over 35 kms of backbone fibre, 30 cabinets, 45 Vehicle Detection Systems, 11 Emergency Call Boxes, as well as the ITS software. All the intelligent transportation systems installed on the Bridge will be used later in the operations and maintenance of the bridge.

Economic benefits

The iconic Champlain Bridge plays a vital role in local and international economies by providing a link for overland freight transportation between Canada and the United States, while also connecting commuters to the metropolitan region. The project also generated employment opportunities in Quebec by offering 300 jobs for the project office and nearly 1,000 jobs for the construction site workers.

Facilitating a trade value of nearly CAD 20 billion, the Champlain Bridge today accommodates the crossing of more than 50 million vehicles each year, making it one of the busiest stretches in North America. Overall, the new design of the project improved road safety, traffic management, and connectivity to the city of Montreal and the South shore of the Montreal Island.

Geospatial and Modular Construction Methods Provided Optimum Construction Quality

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