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MacDonald Bridge Rehabilitation TAC Environmental Achievement Award Submission


Just before the confluence of the Bow and Elbow Rivers, where Fort Calgary, an 1863 Northwest Mounted Police post, keeps watch over the water, stands the MacDonald Bridge. Since 1911, the MacDonald Bridge has been a fixture over southern Alberta’s Elbow River. In May of 2006, this through truss steel bridge went through its annual inspection by The City of Calgary, Roads, and the decision was made that it was time to rehabilitate this heritage river crossing. Four paint samples were collected from strategic locations, and analysed for heavy metal content. Sampling results revealed that three of the four samples collected resulted in greater than 5000ppm (>0.5%) of lead by weight. Paint samples yielding over 5000ppm by weight of lead are classified as lead-containing. Due to the entire bridge being coated in a lead-containing paint, Roads decided to take the rehabilitation process a few steps further. The Elbow River, originating in the Canadian Rockies, has very stringent environmental requirements. This river flows directly into the Bow River, a world class trout fishing destination populated with rainbow trout, brown trout, bull trout, and rocky mountain whitefish. The MacDonald Bridge, destined to undergo abrasive blasting and repainting, had the potential to release paint particulates containing lead, a highly toxic metal, into the air, land, and water. By using a system of complete containment during the project, Roads was able to completely avoid any negative environmental impacts for the duration of the project. The process and the methods used to maintain critical transportation across the bridge while protecting the environment have set a new standard for The City of Calgary and for southern Alberta. Through sampling, frequent inspections, strict requirements, and attention to detail, Roads successfully maintained a balance between meeting environmental and OH&S legislation while allowing essential transportation over the river for local communities. Here at Roads, we feel the MacDonald Bridge project successfully and innovatively protected the environment while maintaining critical transportation access to the surrounding communities, and submit it as a candidate for the Transportation Association of Canada’s Environmental Achievement Award.

Conference Paper Details

Session title:
Environmental issues, Environmental legislation