Tag Archives: overpasses

Montreal Geography Trivia No. 27

I have today off because there’s no paper tomorrow, so here’s a quickie:

What are these?

UPDATE: N. Syed gets it close enough below. These are bridge and overpass structures that have been in the news over the past year. They include Montreal-area structures that were part of the 135 the Ministry of Transport flagged as potentially dangerous, nine municipally-run structures the city decided to inspect, as well as the overpasses in Laval that collapsed or were torn down and brought this entire issue to light in the first place.

Of those, most have been deemed safe, others have had major repairs (such as the 520 near the airport and Highway 15 near de la Verendrye), and three (de Blois/Highway 19, Henri-Bourassa/Pie-IX and Hochelaga/Highway 25) were condemned.

Overpass inspections complete

Earlier this month, the Ministry of Transport completed inspections of 135 bridges and overpasses that were red-flagged by the Johnson Commission as potentially hazardous and immediately restricted from carrying overweight trucks.

The result: While 83 of those overpasses have been completely reopened, the rest will require either major repairs or replacement over the coming years.

Among the last to be inspected (or at least evaluated) (PDF) were three on the island of Montreal: Two overpasses of Highway 138 over Monette Street in LaSalle will be replaced, while Côte-Vertu over Highway 13 will require major repairs.

With the list now complete (PDF), I’ve updated my overpasses-of-death map on Google Maps to reflect the results.

The green marks note structures that have had all their restrictions lifted. Yellows mark those which will see major repairs in the next few years. Red ones mark those which will be demolished and replaced.

Not sure if seeing so many red marks should make us feel good or bad about the situation.

Bienvenue aux écouteurs de Rythme FM

Pour les gens qui m’ont entendu ce matin à Les matins de Montréal de Rythme FM, voici un lien vers ma carte des structures au Québec:

At-risk overpasses


  • ROUGE: structures démolis, fermés ou qui vont être remplacés
  • JAUNE: structures dont la ministère a décidé de faire des travaux majeures ou qui ont encore des restrictions de poids
  • VERT: structures qui ont passé l’inspection et n’ont pas besoin de travaux ni restrictions
  • BLEU: structures dont l’inspection n’est past complet ou un décision n’est pas encore publié

D’autres liens utiles:

Autres pensées:

  • J’ai jamais pensé que le Courrier international à décidé que je suis un “ailleurs” ici. (En regardant le blogue encore, c’est plutôt parce que je suis anglophone, et il aime mon blogue alors j’ai rien contre lui)
  • Ma mère n’est pas fâché contre moi pour le truc “Jim FM” (je savais pas qu’ils lisait mon blogue en direct!). Mais elle pense que j’étais un peu nerveux. C’est vrai, mais j’étais plutôt fatigué!
  • Ma carte n’est pas à 100%, ça prend un autre mise-à-jour fini!
  • Je retourne à mon lit maintenant.

(Voici un enregistrement “rush” de baisse qualité de l’entrevue. Je vais le remplacer par un plus meilleur: .mp3, .ogg)

Want to hear me practice my French?

I’ve just been booked as a phone-in interview for Rythme FM’s morning show tomorrow at 8am (105.7 FM). They want me to talk about my recently-updated map of Quebec’s overpasses.

Those of you willing to wake up early enough to listen to it will not only listen to my embarrassingly awful French being broadcasted to a huge audience, but that same awful French made awfuler by the fact that I’ll be low on sleep.

Anyone have a message for Patrice l’Écuyer?


  • Mom: “Your dad wants to know what radio station it is.”
  • Me: “105.7 Rythme FM.”
  • Dad: “Jim FM?”
  • Me: “No. Rythme FM. Rhythm. 105.7”
  • Dad: “What are the call letters?”
  • Me: “I don’t know. They don’t use them.”
  • Mom: “He doesn’t know. It’s Rim FM. R-I-M.”
  • Me: “NO! RYTHME FM. R-Y-T-H-M-E!”
  • Mom: “Oh. Rythme FM.”
  • Dad: “What are the call letters? It’s C-something.”
  • Me (Googling): “CFGL.”
  • Mom: “CFGL.”
  • Dad: “Ahh! CFGL! Why didn’t he just say so?”

My dad’s a devout CHOM listener. The remaining stations he knows only by their callsign.

Let’s hope the station understands me better through my cellphone.

UPDATE (After the interview): Here’s a rush recording of the interview from my not-designed-for-broadcast digital recorder. I’ll replace it with a better version later: .mp3, .ogg

Clearer picture about overpasses

At-risk overpasses

I’ve updated my map of Quebec’s at-risk overpasses to reflect the current state of inspections at the Ministry of Transport. More than half of the original 135 overpasses have been inspected, and most have had weight restrictions lifted.

The map (which started six months ago) contains about 150 bridges and overpasses, including the 135 deemed requiring inspection by the ministry, others whose structures were looked at by municipalities in the past year, and historical notes of ones that have collapsed or been demolished.

In the map above:

  • RED indicates bridges and overpasses which have been closed, demolished or are to be replaced
  • YELLOW indicates bridges and overpasses which require repairs or continue to have weight restrictions
  • GREEN indicates bridges and overpasses whose restrictions have been lifted and no repairs are deemed necessary
  • BLUE indicates bridges and overpasses which still need inspection or whose inspections are still under analysis

UPDATE (Jan. 22): Radio-Canada mentions the map on their “Sur le Web” site, complete with video summary. They got it from the Courrier International blog.

Overpass collapses will probably happen again

The Johnson Commission into the De la Concorde overpass collapse submitted its final report to the government last week. The report, which is 222 pages long, is available (in English!) as a PDF on its website. (The last page of the report laughingly self-congratulates how much it’s saving the environment by printing on recycled paper, even though the previous page is entirely blank.)

De la Concorde, seconds before disaster

(Above: the last photo taken of the De la Concorde overpass before its collapse, by a Transport Department road supervisor sent to pick up some fallen concrete. The commission absolved him of responsibility since he wasn’t an engineer.)

In short, the causes of the collapse were as follows (disclaimer: I’m not an engineer, so some of my explanations might be a bit off):

  • Improper, low-quality concrete used in its construction, in turn blamed on confusing design instructions and insufficient supervision.
  • Improper placement of reinforcing steel rebar.
  • Insufficient drainage, leading to water, ice and salt weakening the concrete.
  • Insufficient supervision and inspection of construction.
  • Common practices in use during the time of construction that science would later show needed reinforcing to counter the effects of concrete shear.
  • Missing documentation at the MTQ concerning the structure’s construction and repair history.
  • Improper repair of the structure in 1992, which ended up weakening the structure.
  • Insufficient and inadequate inspections, with imprecise inspection reports.

All that comes down to the big cause: cutting corners to save money. Cutting corners on inspections, on materials, on competence, on time. Each, by itself, isn’t dangerous. But put enough together and they spell disaster. The blame was, in the end, so spread out that no individual can be considered liable.

So now the government is going to create an independent agency for road inspections (to counter the “culture of negligence” at the MTQ) and spend billions of dollars to catch up on infrastructure maintenance.

What gets me about all this is that the transport department (and the commission itself) has been working overtime trying to convince everyone that our structures are safe.

The implication in that is that the de la Concorde overpass collapse was a one-time thing. A fluke that can’t be repeated. But while there were a lot of coincidental mistakes that contributed to the collapse, not a single one of them is guaranteed not to have occurred with other structures. There’s no guarantee that there isn’t a structure out there with bad concrete, or improperly-placed steel supports. Nothing stops a similar collapse from happening to another structure.

That said, the transport department has already changed the way it maintains overpasses, and has inspected many of them thoroughly. The culture of negligence and cost-cutting corner-cutting has, for now, been replaced with a healthy fear of a similar event happening again.

It’s debatable how long that fear will last. After the Challenger space shuttle exploded in 1986, NASA started to become overly cautious about safety in its missions. But eventually cost-cutting reared its ugly head in 2003 when the Columbia burned up on re-entry. Though the direct causes were different, reports cited an attitude at the organization that encouraged disregarding small risks to keep missions going.

Hopefully we won’t forget the lessons of de la Concorde in 20 years just to save a few bucks.

More overpass inspection news

Another month, another series of bridge inspections. Transport Quebec released their latest list this week, which showed two bridges needing more repair and three getting the all-clear in the Laurentians.

I’ve updated my map of the 135 structures (plus municipal ones and others of interest) to reflect the inspections.

You can see the full list of inspected bridges and overpasses in this MTQ PDF file.

Get your overpasses straight

Well, the Quebec government has started inspections on those 135 structures it says are “at-risk”. And of the 20 they’ve inspected so far, nine require major repairs or complete replacements.

Now here I was all eager to update my map of crumbling Quebec overpasses and bridges using this CBC Montreal story. It lists two bridges that will be replaced and eight more that will need major repairs. (Yeah, I know that adds up to 10 and not 9, but journalists don’t do math.)

It didn’t take long before I started having doubts about the list.

First of all, I can’t find out where they got it. The transport ministry’s website doesn’t have it in any of the documents related to their inspections of the first 20 structures, and no other news organization has any specific list of structures.

Secondly, their descriptions are vague. One of the overpasses needing “major repair” is “Highway 10 overpass in Marieville.” That’s great and all, but there are four overpasses on Highway 10 in Marieville on the list of 135 structures under review.

Finally, some of it is just plain wrong. One of the two listed for demolition is “Route 104 overpass in Franklin, Montérégie.” But Route 104 doesn’t go anywhere near Franklin. The western tip of Route 104 (in St. Jean sur Richelieu) is 59km away from the town. It was probably just a typo (there’s a Route 202 overpass in Franklin on the list), but it’s kind of important to get these things right, and without any other sources to back this already-faulty information up, I can’t use it. (UPDATE: LCN uses the same faulty description, so I guess it must be the transport department that got it wrong)

And that makes me cranky.

On the plus side, I found this proprietary (read: sucky) Google-Maps-style atlas of the 135 structures under inspection. Sadly, it doesn’t give any information about the status of the evaluations of the individual structures. But I’ll use it to pinpoint the location of some of the bridges I couldn’t map exactly.

And I’ve updated the list of City of Montreal-run overpasses which needed inspection to show most of them have reopened to heavy trucks.