UPDATE: No attempt to cover up Hazeldean bridge report, say councillors

The north side bridge railing, where the west approach meets the main bridge deck. This photo was taken in November 2015.

When we published an engineering report last month on why the Hazeldean bridge failed, it was the first time Councillor Shad Qadri or Councillor Allan Hubley had ever seen the document.

Hubley, councillor for Kanata South, did not know the report on the Hazeldean bridge existed until it was made public last month on StittsvilleCentral.ca.

“I would have liked to have known that there was such a report,” said Hubley, “even if it had to be restricted to elected officials, because sometimes there’s reasons why things can’t be put out in the public—if they have individuals names and things like that. But it should have at least been discussed with Councillor Qadri.”

Councillor Qadri said he knew that the report existed, but had not seen it since it was only available through an access to information request.

“I first became aware when the issues of deflection came along (in 2011). And I asked questions at the time to staff,” said Qadri. “And the staff said there’s some deflection on the bridge and they were working on a solution for it…That’s when I became aware that there may have been a report written at that time. But nobody told me that there was a report written at that time.”

When asked if they thought the true reason for the bridge’s failure was covered up, both councillors were firm that they did not think so.

“Absolutely not,” said Councillor Qadri. “When I asked staffers what the problems were with the bridge in terms of deflection, I was provided with information that they could provide me at the time.”

The same engineering firm also designed the problematic Airport Parkway bridge.

“WSP completed one bridge assignment after the problems with the Airport Parkway Pedestrian and Cycling Bridge project arose,” Councillor Qadri said in an email response. “This assignment was partially complete when the Airport Parkway bridge problems were discovered and all design work was thoroughly reviewed by both staff and a third party consulting firm. WSP was also barred from any new consulting assignments with the City of Ottawa for a two year period, starting in December 2013.”

“That program where we prevent companies from bidding on other work for the city when they do bad stuff,” said Councillor Hubley, “if you check who brought that program in, it was myself and councillor Steve Desroches last term. We’re the ones who moved that motion and put a protocol in place so that we could actually ban these companies from bidding or winning other contracts with the city. Just to stop this kind of stuff—this shoddy work.”

Both councillors said they were unqualified to answer if they thought the bridge design was completed too quickly because of deadline pressures for the Infrastructure Stimulus Fund, a federal government funding initiative.

Qadri did comment on the stimulus fund in general: “Yes there was pressure from all of infrastructure funding that the projects had to be completed in a certain timeline—not just the bridge. All of the other infrastructure projects assigned to the city, they all went through the same kind of deadline.”

We also asked the city for copies of any bridge inspection reports, which we received along with this response from Councillor Qadri’s office:

“Since commissioning of the bridge in 2012, there have been four inspections.  One in 2013, two in 2014 and one in 2015.  Three  of the inspections were non-regulatory; one for post warranty baseline and two for routine requests.  In accordance with the Ontario Structure Inspection Manual, a full inspection was completed in August 2014.   All of the inspections found the structure to be in good condition.   The inspections did identify transverse cracking and settlement of the approaches.  Settlement of approaches is not uncommon and the structural integrity of the bridge is not affected. The cracking identified during inspections is typically addressed through regular maintenance activities.  

The next full bridge inspection is scheduled as part of the 2016 season in accordance with the two year cycle.  In addition, the approaches leading to and leaving the structure will be looked at with the view of identifying any works necessary for these elements.”

Crack across the Hazeldean Road bridge.
Crack at the west approach of the Hazeldean Road bridge, taken in the fall of 2015.

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