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Rutherford Creek bridge on schedule

Early warning system in place for IPP pipeline failure

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Crossing Rutherford Creek will be easier by mid-August when a new permanent two-lane bridge opens. A single lane, light-controlled Bailey bridge, has served the crossing, approximately eight kilometres south of Pemberton, since floodwaters washed out the original bridge last Oct. 18. Four people were killed in that early morning tragedy.

Despite a three-week work delay that came on the heels of a girder collapse on June 2 that saw 300 tons of steel nearly end up in the creek, the new Rutherford Creek bridge is set to open on time. And because it was built under a "design and build" contract any overage on the $5 million project is the responsibility of the contractor.

"The contractor (Spring Point Construction Management) has been working very diligently to get back on schedule," said Jeff Knight, Ministry of Transportation communications officer. "They have been making excellent progress."

At 70 metres, the new bridge is slightly more than three times the length of the one built in 1972. The dramatic difference in length is partially due to the fact that the flood increased the width of the creek bed, but is also an engineering necessity.

"It’s designed for the most severe flood event that could occur in 200 years," Knight says. "It designed to withstand high water erosion, it’s a much stronger bridge."

Additionally, the creek channel has been strengthened to prevent future damage from washout. But in case something does go awry, there is protection to prevent a tragedy similar to the one that occurred last year.

"There will be a warning system installed on the north side approach to the bridge this fall," says Knight. "In case the Rutherford power plant’s penstock fails."

The penstock – in this case a pipeline that feeds water to the independent power producer – would undergo pressure readings nine km upstream from the IPP’s site and at the highway. Any change in pressure would trip an alarm that would set off flashing lights on either side of the bridge. It is believed that a failure of the pipeline would result in the erosion of only the northern approach to the bridge.

"It’s unlikely the bridge would be damaged," says Knight.

An exact date and time for the new bridge opening was unavailable at press time.

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