A lane of the Fairview overpass is being barricaded by concrete because it is not safe to travel.
The overpass is the same design as a Quebec overpass that collapsed and killed five people in 2006. Inspectors found the concrete supporting the lane had degraded to the point where it is unsafe.
The province, which maintains the Fairview overpass, had already cut off traffic from the lane —- but it was only marked off with paint and some cars had been driving on it when traffic was busy. The new barriers will keep traffic off altogether.
“When the Quebec situation occurred a very detailed inspection was done. There’s been an inspection twice a year since then,” said transportation department spokewoman Cathy MacIsaac.
“Right now it’s going to be bumped up to every two weeks, and if there was a concern whether or not the bridge was safe, it would be closed.”
The inspections will monitor how the overpass handles the freeze-thaw cycle that occurs this time of year.
But half of the overpass is coming down soon anyway. MacIsaac said they are hoping construction will start in June. Six months and $5 million later, there will be a new overpass.
That’s likely to cause major delays for the tens of thousands of people who commute across the overpass everyday. At the height of construction, traffic will be down to a single lane in either direction. MacIsaac acknowledged this will be a problem, and said the government is working on minimizing the congestion.
“Traffic will be impacted because we’ll be reducing the number of lanes. But we’re going to work with HRM on a traffic-management plan,” she said.
The part being overhauled is three lanes built about 50 years ago. Three other lanes were built about 20 years ago and are still safe, said MacIsaac.