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 lailayuile@live.com

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..

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

  1. my first thought on cables icing up is the icing will probably decrease the life span of the cables
    Ice in between the strands of the cable is a food way to cause stress and unraveling of the cables,. No the bridge will not fail because of the cables this year – more likely that will occur after the warranty period runs out (when the taxpayers of BC are on the hook for the replacement costs)


    1. the strands are not open to the elements… they are incased in a tube with grease in it.. for streching and losening i guess and keep the water out..


  2. I’ve been tweeting back and forth with David Schreck and others, Sean Leslie said same thing happened to Alex Fraser in ’05, and ’08, but big difference in design with the cables on the new Port Mann crossing over traffic.

    It might only happen a few times a year, but unless there was some method of prevention employed, it was bound to happen in my opinion.

    I don’t believe from what I have read in the two contracts I have seen, that this closure will cost taxpayers, I believe this will be a contracter cost, or fall under the road maintenance contract.


  3. Or, the Five lanes each way could be reduced to just the outer two = 4 lanes, thereby making the carrying capacity of the old Port Mann Bridge of two + three = 5 lanes greater by one, of the New Port Mann Bridge.

    Hey, this would be a great photo op for the Premier, ….. wearing her white Hard Hat, of course. As to the damaged motor vehicles, will ICBC be considering the falling ice to be an Act of God, or design stupidity and as to the repair costs to the damaged vehicles, along with personal injuries, will those monies be coming out of the contractors …… DESIGN, BUILD TOLL companies pockets?


    1. Hey, this would be a great photo op for the Premier, ….. wearing her white Hard Hat, of course”

      My first reaction was to have a good laugh, but second thought, it will probably happen L:) just her style.


  4. From an Earlier Post of Laila’s:

    “Vedder had difficulty getting a response from Kiewit , but they eventually got in touch. “They did say that they stand firmly behind the safety and quality of the work they’ve done in all of the bridges they’ve built in North America.””


  5. So, does that mean the ICBC costs are going to be reimbursed by Kiewit? How will we ever know if it happens? My guess is Kiewit will issue a statement assuming liability and then it will all be forgotten.


    1. I would think that whomever bears the brunt of the liability, will bear the brunt of the costs. Its very common for builders to cover claims during construction – flying gravel, things falling etc, in fact this is nothing new to Kiewit, who is going to get audited on one project in the US for denying claims. http://centurycity.patch.com/articles/kiewit-welcomes-audit-says-most-claims-handled-are-vehicle-related

      From that article: ” Documenting motorists’ claims

      Each claim is taken on a case-by-case basis and Kiewit follows insurance industry standards, Kulka noted. He said the company keeps a spreadsheet, called the “play of the day,” which includes every piece of I-405 construction activity, such as the type of work, where it’s occurring and if it needs traffic control.

      “It’s pretty much a diary,” he said. “We can go back through and know exactly what we did and where we were working.”

      So if a driver says he or she drove by and hit a cone, Kulka said, the company can look at the spreadsheet and see when and what lanes were targeted for cone placement.

      Also contained in Kiewit’s daily records are photographs and video taken each day of every closure, and where every cone was dropped. Kiewit references the images and returns to those records four times a shift, Kulka said, and the records are signed by workers indicating they looked at them.”

      So, again, depending on who is found to be responsible for this falling ice situation, that party will likely bear the brunt of the cost of claims. I am sure ICBC will be all over that.


  6. juST ANOTHER example of how well those lieberals have managed things in this province. they can’t even hire a company who can keep in mind it freezes here. I support the suggestion we keep the old Port Mann bridge for winter use.


  7. WTF! When I worked as a private contractor and tendered on public contracts (roads, bridges, etc.) ALL the contract documents and ALL the bid results were available for any and all to see (and judge re fairness and reliability). Now none of that is available! So much for ‘transparency’!
    Only two bids for the ferry construction? Why not a dozen? Because the result was already preordained as per BC Rail? What were the bid results? Were the bid comparable, unlike the Port Mann bids – apples vs oranges?
    Oh yea! More jobs – for Chinese boat-building families!!! Hurry up May 2013.


  8. Kiewit who built the new Port Mann also built the new Tacoma Narrows Bridge, which was closed the beginning of this year due to the same reasons (falling ice); the old bridge was also closed in ’96 due to falling ice.


  9. Competant engineers know about icing on metal so not having de-icing provisions is inexcusable, but that is par for the course in Victoria theses days, The place name has become synonamous with incompetance.


  10. Does anyone else think it’s rather funny that Christy was spouting off about how ‘her government’ had done all the big things right (or words to that effect) just before the bridge debacle? I wonder how long she’ll be in hiding this time.


    1. I can hear her words now;
      “so Jas listen Jas nobody talks about the 10.000 cars that never got hit by ice. right? I think overall we did a pretty good job don’t you? We are going to learn from this Jas you know why? cause that’s what we do. We’ll study this jas because we care about the people you know? Hell Jas I will appoint a commission yes an inquiry because that is what the people deserve. That’s right i’ll get Wally Oppal and Geoff Plant and they’ll get to the source of this Jas! Wally is in India at the moment shooting a movie where he get’s killed as a gift you know for his work on that women thing, but we’ll get this done Jas. There are families crossing that bridge. I know we’ve had problems Jas, but this bridge Jas this bridge is fantastic, 10,000 not effected and ony 60 in a whole day experienced negative feelings”


      1. omg… still laughing.. I can actually hear her voice saying this.. and that concerned face…lol… I’ve got a couple things to take care of here right now, will comment and update with some interesting news on a couple of stories later this morning.


    1. It’s a potentially fatal design flaw. Yesterday was not a one in a million storm or weather system. We always get rain, snow, wet snow, slush that varies, every single winter. This was a cost savings and design issue because the cables go over the traffic… The design makes cables with heat or electro magnetic pulses essential, but the sad thing is our government officials in the MOT dont employ the proper people to be able to say NO, this is not correct. In fact, they often contract out workers from the builders as consultants.

      And lets not all be trashing Miss Mary Polak….. do remember this is Falcons baby. Someone should get comment from him…..


      1. Absolutely get Falcon out….these people have to be accountable for all of the decisions they made while in office….these decisions result in permanent and irreversible impacts….they can’t just retire without consequence. IPP’s, bridges, ferries…..we are paying for the rest of our working careers. We can’t just “retire”.


        1. Can’t believe I left out railways…..I can think of no polite way of expressing my disdain for the whole this whole group of elected and appointed officials.


        2. I guess we’re forgetting that, being a democracy & all, WE are these elected officials’ bosses (i.e. we elect/HIRE them as ‘public servants’ to manage OUR province & act in our best interests)… So we need to recognize our responsibilities/rights, pick up those slackened reins & get our ‘company’ (/province) back on track ~streamlined, sustainable & CARED-FOR~ as envisioned here (for example) via decision-making that includes proper public consultation…
          If that sounds like a pipe dream, it’s because we’ve let things slide & resigned ourselves to corruption, incompetence & mismanagement as the ‘norm’. Which doesn’t stop the seething rage from rising to a frothy foam seeing boatloads, formed in rush-hour bus-stop lineups, pointedly ignoring the tentative advances of students offering (clearly worthy) petitions to sign. How DARE they scoff the opportunity to be worthy of their BC citizenships, I hiss to myself (all aversion to stereotypes forgotten) while signing with exaggerated flourish my disapproval of govt’s westcoast big-oil sellout…
          “PETITIONS?” (yup~! Sad but true…)
          Meanwhile our ‘party’ system further confuses & divides – when what we need is clarity & cooperation! Managing the province is serious business, not a sport (& the only loyalty we want to see is TO BC)! At the very least, the parties could help @ election time by vetting candidates in advance to instill some confidence – in which case Ms. Clark, presumably, would not be where she is today?
          Is it too much to hope that government will STRIVE to learn from past mistakes & plan to put a little expertise & KNOWLEDGE in the new year’s parliament?
          [Well, this blog’s revived my faith that BC’s not aLL-brawn-no-brains: so THANK-YOU! & MERRY XMAS!!]


  11. As previously commented by most posters – this BC Liberal government is all about INCOMPETENCE ! I can’t think of one thing that they have done that has turned out to be a positive !
    I just get so very angry when I think of all of the fusterclucks this government has been responsible for and nothing is said or done about it by the MSM.
    It looks like both BC and Canada are heading towards being a developing country instead of a developed one – we seem to be going backwards, not making any progress.
    Rant off!


  12. Norm Farrell said in his Northern Insight-Perseptivity blog:

    “The French Millau Bridge, the highest in the world cost $524 million to build in 2004.
    The Port Mann Bridge in BC, the widest in the world, cost $3.3 BILLION to build in 2010 – 2012.”

    I fail to see how the BC bridge is 500 times the cost of the French bridge – unless huge numbers of people are getting under the counter payments (MLA,s Civil Servants, Engineers etc.).

    It begs the question that how can an ordinary sized (but wide) bridge be so costly. There has been no real extraordinary problems associated with the Port Mann bridge building – except the inflated cost and that has to come from somewhere !



  13. Updated above with video of ice/snow bombs from a dash cam… wow!!!

    Big snafu on the part of the builder and of the province – yes they have input on this – to not employ heat in cables or use electro-magnetic pulses to prevent incidents like this…. Of course, as mentioned before the design lends to this. Go back to Falcon and Campbell who both heralded the innovative design… a legacy bridge…

    A legacy of winter damage perhaps.

    Who made the call to say NO to the anti icing? There is no passing the buck on this one


  14. The news reported that during construction this had been brought up, including workers being told not to work under the cables last winter during safety meetings. Of course the MoT and TiCorp are playing the politics game, deny deny deny. They won’t admit any mistakes.


    1. Not sure if the official company doing the work is technically a government organisation but definitely the minutes of the MoT safety meetings are subject to a FOI good chance the topic was also discussed in a joint WorksafeBC/contractor/government safety meeting these too should be subject to FOI. I would chase them for the FOI except I have too many other Liebral FOI requests and related issues to take on this one too.


  15. No, wont come up on MOT FOI requests, been there done that. TI corp handles their own, and I can guarantee you that they will pull the third party privacy rule on this one. The last request I had go through them,took months to get – they used the first request for an extension, then third party consultation and hearing and then released some but not all.

    I find data mining using other methods and leaked documents from protected sources far easier than FOI’s : )


  16. […] This investigation showing the province pushed to accelerate a project also calls in to questions two other events: the gantry collapse  ( an incident Worksafe allowed Kiewit to investigate themselves )  and  why the bridge was allowed to open with a design that was deficient and led to the now infamous snow… […]


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