Crumbling concrete of Ambassador Bridge worries pedestrians, motorists

The Windsor Star

Posted by:
Dave Battagello

Holes are pictured in the Ambassador Bridge between Donnelly Street and Wyandotte Street West in Windsor, Ont., Monday, Nov. 12, 2012. (DAX MELMER/The Windsor Star)

The Ambassador Bridge turned 83 years old on the weekend, and, according to some nervous pedestrians and motorists, it’s showing its age.

Crumbling concrete and holes in the bridge roadbed have left some University of Windsor staff and students wary as they pass by on sidewalks or park their cars on nearby lots rented by the school.

“I do worry about it,” said one university staff member who has parked in the lots next to the bridge the past year and a half. “When you see trucks driving over the holes, that can’t be good.”

A first-year accounting student who lives on Peter Street and walks under the bridge daily on the way to classes also expressed concern.

“They should fix it more,” said Parker, who would not give her last name. “I am concerned about our safety. I think it’s a little dangerous. There are many cracks.”

Several others had no concerns — or were more leery about birds dropping their waste than concrete bits falling on them.

“I do worry more about the birds,” said Ian Neubauer, a fourth-year mechanical engineering student who passes under the bridge every day while travelling from his residence farther west near Sandwich and Mill streets.

“You do see workers sometimes up there patching it up. I’ve never seen any chunks that have fallen.”

The bridge company has installed metal or wooden barriers underneath the roadbed designed to catch falling concrete.

They sit over top most of the west-end roads and sidewalks that pass underneath, but there are a handful of paths and spots where those passing underneath are exposed to any loose materials that may fall to the ground.

A spokeswoman for the university said there have not been any official complaints from students or those who park next to the bridge.

“We haven’t had any complaints,” said Holly Ward. “I’m not sure who might be concerned, but they haven’t contacted the university.”
Bridge executives Dan Stamper and Mickey Blashfield did not respond to messages from The Star.

The bridge company launched a $20-million roadbed replacement effort in 2010 that included installation of new deck and steel supports underneath.

A U.S. safety inspection report of the Ambassador Bridge released in October 2009 warned the main span deck was in “poor condition” with “cracked, unsound and (chipped) concrete, exposing significantly corroded reinforcing steel.”

Following the passage in Ottawa of the International Bridges and Tunnels Act, Transport Canada was allowed by law to conduct its own inspection of the bridge to alleviate concerns about its maintenance.

But because the bridge is privately owned, much of that process involves filings by the bridge company of its own annual inspection reports assembled by a firm hired by owner Matty Moroun.

Federal officials from Transport Canada could not be reached for comment Monday because of the Remembrance Day holiday.

But shortly after the act was passed, Transport Canada spokesman Mark Butler said: “While the responsibility for the safety of international bridges and tunnels rests with the owner, the government of Canada would take immediate action if we had any concerns about the safety of an international bridge or tunnel.”

Any bridge inspection report remains the property of the bridge company and because it’s privately owned, Transport Canada is “unable to release details or information contained in the report,” he said.

Coun. Ron Jones, who represents neighbourhoods in the west end, described the bridge’s noticeable crumbling over Windsor’s streets and sidewalks as “an ongoing situation.”

“My understanding is (bridge officials) are not really responsible to anyone in terms of regular maintenance,” Jones said. “Who is the watchdog for that? My concern is there is only intermittent inspection of the bridge.

“Certainly, I wish they would upgrade their preventative maintenance program. They would suggest it’s ample, but the proof is in the pudding.”