We designed, built and financed Canada’s only floating bridge, and now we’re proud to be overseeing its maintenance under a 30-year concession agreement with the Province of British Columbia.
The William R. Bennett (WRB) bridge is a two-kilometre corridor that straddles Okanagan Lake to connect two communities, Kelowna and West Kelowna. As the only route within 110 km between both shores for commuter, commercial and emergency vehicles, the WRB must be available all times.
Rising above construction challenges
Designed and built in fast-track mode, the WRB bridge project presented a number of unique challenges. First, the new floating bridge would reuse 20 anchor and cable components from the existing bridge, while it was still operational. These anchor and cable components were switched to the new bridge, one at a time, to maintain structural stability of the existing bridge, all while traffic continued to flow on deck—an operation that proved very delicate but was ultimately accomplished with no major incidents or disruptions.
During the construction of the graving dock, required to construct the 700 lineal meters of pontoons for the floating section of the new bridge, we encountered an archaeological site. Our team collaborated with two First Nations groups to recover the artefacts, an important step that set the project three months behind schedule. Subsequently, we double shifted the construction of the pontoons to make up for the lost time and ultimately opened the bridge 108 days ahead of schedule.
Intelligent bridge design
Intelligent transportation systems were added to facilitate the monitoring of the state of the infrastructure as well as road conditions and to anticipate maintenance needs. Seasonal maintenance also includes the adjustment of the tension in the anchor cables according to the fluctuation in the lake water levels. These systems allow for the monitoring of seismic activity and the detection of corrosion, surveillance cameras and a road weather information system with a variety of sensors in the road surface to help with the planning of snow removal and ice control operations in winter.
Operations, maintenance and community relations
Today, our responsibilities include year round seasonal maintenance, planning and carrying out inspections, strategic preventative maintenance and rehabilitation works. We also manage traffic, provide emergency response, and communicate regularly with local stakeholders all in accordance with our annually updated environmental, safety and quality management plans.
Twice yearly, we ask regular bridge users to rate their satisfaction with our work, and since 2008 we’ve achieved an average score of more than 96%. We’re proud of this result and what this says about the quality of our services and our relationship with the community.
Our mandate also includes the sole responsibility for a vast portion of Lake Okanagan's wetlands. To do this, we established measures to monitor the riparian areas and marshes, as well as their habitats, to preserve banks against erosion, and to protect species such as bats by providing shelters. We are also keeping an eye on invasive species such as zebra mussels, which can cause serious damage to infrastructure.
- 2008 National Award for Innovation and Excellence, Silver Award Infrastructure Category, from the Canadian Council for Public-Private Partnerships
- 2009 Consulting Engineers of British Columbia Award of Merit – Design of W.R. Bennett Bridge
- 2009 Canadian Consulting Engineering Awards – Transportation Award of Excellence