MONTREAL—Aluminum represents a viable alternative to steel to repair the thousands of bridges in eastern Canada and the United States that are nearing—or past—the end of their life-cycle, according to a new study.
The study, released by the Aluminum Association of Canada (AAC), shows that half of the 1,000 to 1,400 short span bridges within a 1,000-kilometres radius of Quebec need repair of replacement within the next decade—and the association suggests shop-fabricated aluminum components be integrated into the projects.
“There are more than 56,000 road bridges in Canada, and about 603,000 in the United States; most were built between 1945 and 1975,” Martin Hartlieb, study co-author and president of Viami International, said in a statement accompanying the report.
“Several of them will soon be structurally unsound, if not already. In our analysis of 86,500 bridges belonging to provincial and municipal highways, we noticed that in the study area, close to 20 per cent of them are already structurally weak.”
The study was supported by the ministère des Finances et de l’Économie du Québec.
“This study sheds light on the potential use of aluminum to maintain and repair bridges, and to consider a new market for our companies in the processing of aluminum as well as for designers, engineers and entrepreneurs in the construction field,” said Minister for the Politique industrielle et à la Banque de développement économique du Québec Elaine Zakaïb.
According to the study, most of the bridges in need of repair or replacement are located in Quebec, and the association is counting on the province to develop the market.
In examining 10 states and provinces, the AAC said the study only found one program to build a demo bridge with an extruded aluminum deck: at Saint-Ambroise, Saguenay-Lac Saint-Jean in Quebec.
The success of that project could lead to a larger project, which the authors said could make Quebec “the North American leader” in using aluminum in bridge construction.
Other innovative initiatives have been revealed elsewhere.
In Florida, which is outside the analyzed area, experiments will be conducted next year using aluminum decks on drawbridges.
The Minister of Public Works and Government Services Canada is also looking at the possibility of using aluminum as an alternative to iron to rebuild the drawbridge over the Burlington canal, in Ontario.
Its reconstruction is scheduled within the next five years.
AAC president Jean Simard is calling on manufacturers, engineering firms, civil engineering consultants and project proprietors to adapt to aluminum to generate a shift within the next five years.
“We have to take advantage of the situation in which our North American companies find themselves in order to upgrade a large number of bridges and help leverage sustainable, recyclable materials that resist low temperatures and are malleable,” Simard said.
“I am, therefore, inviting the province to innovate and to be a leader in promoting aluminum. We have a great opportunity to prove that aluminum, a true Quebec product, may be technically viable and economically competitive for short-span bridges.
“By doing this, Quebec will open up a broad North American market for manufacturers. We must seize this business opportunity.”
The market study demonstrated that local manufacturers could be competitive suppliers of aluminum bridge decks within a 1,000-kilometre radius from Quebec, which includes projects in Connecticut, Maine, New Hampshire, New York, Pennsylvania, Vermont and Massachusetts in the U.S., and Quebec, Ontario and New Brunswick in Canada.