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Annual inspection confirms safety and good condition of Sault Ste. Marie International Bridge

Contact: Phil Becker, International Bridge Administration, 906-635-5255, ext. 112,
Agency: Transportation

November 17, 2011 -- Bridge engineering experts today gave the Sault Ste. Marie Bridge Authority (SSMBA) board yet another glowing report on the International Bridge's overall condition and maintenance program.

Inspectors from the firms of Hardesty and Hanover (H&H) of Okemos, Mich., and McCormick Rankin Corporation of Mississauga, Ontario, conducted the 50th consecutive annual inspection of the bridge in August, and delivered the results at today's quarterly SSMBA meeting.

"The bridge is in good condition and is well-maintained," said H&H chief inspector Rick Wianecki. "The International Bridge Administration has a very proactive preventive maintenance program that goes a long way toward preserving the bridge."

Engineers from Fish and Associates, a structural engineering firm from near Madison, Wis., also were involved in the inspection.

"The International Bridge is one of the best-maintained bridges I have observed in my 40-plus years of experience," said Phil Fish, a nationally recognized expert in bridge inspection. "There are very few bridges that would compare to the condition of this bridge with 50 years of service."

The two-week-long inspection is conducted each year to ensure the bridge is structurally sound and safe for public use. While federal requirements call for public highway bridges to be inspected at least once every two years, the bridge authority has elected to have annual inspections since the bridge was completed in 1962.

The inspection report also includes a list of items cited for correction or repair. This year those items included curb railing blast cleaning and repainting, bridge railing repair, and bridge deck expansion joint replacement and repair.

"We repair any structural condition deficiencies, no matter how minor, found during the inspection," said Karl Hansen, the International Bridge Administration (IBA) bridge engineer who coordinated the inspections. "The IBA has a proud history of maintaining the bridge to the highest standards, and our dedicated maintenance workers work every day to protect this international crossing."

The IBA reports that in the last 20 years, $17.5 million in bridge revenue has been spent on major contracted projects, such as repainting structural steel and resurfacing the concrete bridge deck. In comparison, the IBA's Long Range Capital Plan calls for spending more than $50 million in bridge revenue on contracted bridge repainting and concrete deck rehabilitation projects in the next 15 years.

Hansen explains that as part of that ongoing maintenance, the concrete bridge deck will receive a $25 million resurfacing treatment in the mid 2020s, which will extend the deck service life until the mid 2040s. At that time, the then-80-year-old deck will require total replacement at an estimated cost of more than $130 million. The IBA estimates that the service life for paint systems applied to the structural steel can vary from 20 to 30 years, depending on location.

The IBA's sole source of funding is from tolls and fees collected, and they receive no federal, provincial, or state government operational subsidy. All revenue collected is used to maintain, operate, and protect the bridge structure, the Canadian plaza, and the toll plaza.

Sault Ste. Marie International Bridge: Bridging Our Past, Connecting Our Future
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