Canadian Society for Civil Engineering

Canadian Society for Civil Engineering

August 03, 2011 10:23 ET

The Canadian Society for Civil Engineering (CSCE) Speaks Out on the Ville Marie Expressway Tunnel Collapse

MONTREAL, QUEBEC--(Marketwire - Aug. 3, 2011) - The state of Canadian infrastructure has once again become front page news. On the morning of Sunday, July 31st, 2011, a section of the trellis-like ceiling structure of the Ville Marie tunnel in downtown Montreal collapsed. Fortunately the collapse occurred on a Sunday morning; with minimal traffic on the road, there were no injuries. The failure was not of the main tunnel, but of a transition in the roof from the dark tunnel to the bright sunlight.

Irrespective of the 'good news' that this devastating failure did not cause any human casualties, the reality of the state of Canadian infrastructure is again forefront with the public. Civil Engineers in Montreal have expressed their opinions on the reasons behind the collapse. This structural failure is similar to other recent bridge failures elsewhere in North America. Past-President of the CSCE, Dr. Saeed Mirza, P.Eng., FCSCE has been quoted as saying "We must change the current practice of DESIGN, BUILD and FORGET, and design and construct all infrastructure facilities for sustainable performance over the designated service life, considering all life cycle costs (including environmental, economic, social, etc.) with regular maintenance and any required rehabilitation and partial replacement when needed."

There will be significant costs associated with this failure, including the need to divert capital costs from infrastructure maintenance projects to clean up the debris and then to rebuild the collapsed section of the tunnel. In addition to the direct costs of the repair, there are also the indirect costs. Traffic must now be diverted to adjacent roads, thereby increasing the wear and the volume of traffic on those roads, which may lead to network breakdown, and generating longer traffic queues and increased user costs. Increased traffic volumes on roads not designed to serve such traffic volumes will result in driver impatience, possible road rage and an increased risk of vehicular accidents.

CSCE strongly supports the need for increased focus on the infrastructure that supports our standard of living. Unfortunately, past decisions have left public agencies and municipalities with infrastructure needs that are often beyond their means. Further, the use of our tax dollars for the maintenance and repair of infrastructure must compete with a number of other public services.

Current CSCE President, Mr. Randy Pickle, P. Eng., FCSCE, FEC notes that "CSCE's position is that our infrastructure needs to be well managed and sustainable. It is important that the agencies responsible for the infrastructure ensure that the sewers, watermains, roads, bridges and other structures do not fall into a state of disrepair".

Founded in 1887, the Canadian Society for Civil Engineering is a national, not-for-profit, learned society. It is dedicated to providing civil engineers with opportunities to increase their professional development through continuing education, networking, advocacy, and publications. With a National Office in Montreal, CSCE is comprised of 20 sections across Canada, one branch in Hong Kong, and many technical and interdisciplinary committees. CSCE is a constituent society of the Engineering Institute of Canada.

Contact Information

  • Louise Newman
    Communications Manager
    Canadian Society for Civil Engineering
    (514) 933-2634. ext. 23
    (514) 933-3504 (FAX)
    louise@csce.ca