Breaking news: God denies responsibility for Port Mann Bridge ice bombs, files defamation suit against Kiewit and Transportation Investment Corporation

In an ironic twist, I was in the middle of chasing down another Kiewit story when the extraordinary news broke that the  Port Mann Bridge ice bombs were an act of God.

I’m not kidding. Transportation Investment Corporation ( the crown corporation created for this specific project) and Kiewit/Flatiron partnership ( the design/build team) claimed in court documents responding to legal actions that:

“The buildup and subsequent release of ice and snow from the bridge structure was the result of a confluence of extreme environmental conditions, both unforeseen and unforeseeable to the defendants or any of them and was the inevitable result of an act of God,” the companies claimed.

“No act or omission of the defendants or any of them either caused or contributed to any injury damage, loss or expense suffered by the plaintiff.”

Time for a reality check.

1)As any long time resident of the lower mainland will tell you, despite our primarily rainy winter weather, we do still get episodes of snow, freezing rain and worst of all, sometimes a mix of the two as temperatures fluctuate. It can be a nasty wet mess of slush that breaks tree limbs and downs power lines at it’s worst.

2) The design of the Port Mann Bridge is such that the cables cross directly over the lanes of traffic below. It doesn’t take an engineering degree to figure out anything sitting on those cables is going to fall directly down to the traffic below.  In fact, these exact issues are inherent to this particular design and have been noted on other bridges around the world.

3) Documents received as a result of a Freedom of Information filed by Bob Mackin, showed that not only were engineers aware of the risks, while some believed it was a manageable, others were concerned about safety.

And as Bob goes on to report, there was another issue:

“The bridge opening was hurried along for the Premier’s photo op. The bridge was opened during B.C.’s notorious stormy season, yet it did not have its own weather station. In fact, the closest Transportation Ministry weather stations were in Abbotsford and West Vancouver.

One was finally bought for $100,000 and installed in February.
With better understanding of the conditions about to happen and as they were developing, the people that operate and maintain the Port Mann could have halted traffic earlier and avoided damage, injury and embarrassment.”

You gotta love those photo-ops.

Now, head on over to Bob’s older site and check out all the documents that he very helpfully posted on his site,that include “the lengthy U.S. Army Corps of Engineers technical report on superstructure ice protection by Charles Ryerson from April 2009”.

I’m sure the plaintiff’s lawyers will have a field day with them.. if God doesn’t first.

**scroll through them yourself, but documentation showing concerns over icefall start as early as page 5 and on, and Page 21 of the released documents is where some interesting emails come up.***

I’ll have another Kiewit/BC Government story for you shortly, along with a Surrey focus post by tomorrow, pending callbacks from local authorities.


Was de-icing, or anti-icing technology considered for the Port Mann Bridge Cables?

I’ve heard from a few drivers today, reporting seeing falling chunks of ice coming from the cables on the new Port Mann bridge, landing on vehicles below…A similar situation resulted in a bridge closure for a period of time on the Tacoma Narrows bridge last winter.

* as of 1:50 pm, RCMP have closed the bridge, Scan BC is reporting one person knocked unconscious by falling ice requesting ambulance.


**** update : Susana Da Silva of CBC is tweeting no reason to believe Scan BC reports above – Approx 5 reported to RCMP and two injuries.( Not sure everyone is going to report to RCMP if only cracked windshield or broken mirror – so will be interesting to follow pictures online- many coming across twitter aready)

Did you experience this? Send me your stories and photos at

A tragic development to this bridge,but lets look at two things.

I’m not an engineer, but when you look at the design of the bridge, with a central support column employing cables as support… those cables are suspended from the central support and do cross over the lanes of traffic below.

Clearly, any ice or snow that accumulates on those cables has to go somewhere – and at that height, speed and any wind force becomes a factor on where that ice is going to fall and how hard it is going to hit anything below.

Unfortunately, it seems we now know it will fall directly onto the lanes below, filled with vehicles and unsuspecting drivers.

More often we see bridges with cables that run parallel to the roadway to the side, which minimizes that falling ice hazard,  except in winter weather combined with high winds that can cause ice or snow to be carried sideways back onto the road.

The question becomes then, what – if any – design elements, de-icing or anti-icing technology or methods were employed to prevent this, knowing the cables would cross over traffic below?

Update Dec 20th,

Great youtube dash cam video of snow/ice falling from cables above… look how often and how far..