A bridge over the Swan River in a rural area of eastern Saskatchewan collapsed just six hours after opening, and reportedly there was no geotechnical investigation done for the piers in the river. The Dyck Memorial Bridge is located in the rural municipality (RM) of Clayton, about 300 kilometers east of Saskatoon. The Reeve of Clayton called the collapse “an act of God”:
“It seems like something under the riverbed let go and a row of pilings sunk,” Hicks said. “I don’t know who to blame but I figure God built most of this for us.”
The article on CBC News notes that the entire contract for the bridge was only $325,000 (CAD) and was expected to see approximately 1,000 vehicles per year. The Reeve and others were obviously naive about geotechnical investigations, claiming it wasn’t possible to perform an investigation in the river at the pier locations. Those in our profession clearly know that is not the case, and it is done as a matter of routine. Later the statement was that it was too costly to perform the investigation.
For me, the biggest lesson is that our profession needs to do a better job of educating our clients and non-geotechnical colleagues about the importance of our work. The Geoprofessional Business Association has been beating that drum for years. Just because the bridge was low traffic and done on a shoestring budget doesn’t mean you can get by without a proper investigation. There is a lesson here for municipalities of all sizes.