The federal government will be assessing the structure of an Alaska Highway bridge that was scorched by fire after a commercial fuel tanker crashed last month and looking to reopen it to heavyweight industrial traffic.
The Aug. 25 collision at the Sikani Chief Bridge, approximately halfway between Fort St. John and Fort Nelson in northern British Columbia, spread fire to nearby trees after the semi truck towing the tanker overturned. According to a Fort St. John RCMP statement the day after the collision, the driver of the truck is believed to have died in the crash.
Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC) states the bridge was seriously damaged. As of Sept. 14, Drive BC reports that it remains open only to single-lane alternating traffic of vehicles weighing less than 15,500 kilograms. Commercial vehicles less than the limited weight must be able to present weight slips to be allowed to cross.
“The bridge has suffered severe damage from the fire, with three out of five spans affected. Structural assessments, including detailed inspections, material and load testing have been ongoing,” a Sept. 13 notice from PSPC reads.
Instrumentation to collect data supporting load testing results has been installed and concrete and steel samples taken from the bridge are being analyzed. Depending on results, larger vehicles may soon be allowed over the bridge. PSPC says early test results have been positive, but heavier vehicles bound for the northernmost B.C. communities or the Yukon are still being routed through Highway 37, a detour of between 12 and 20 hours depending on the destination.
PSPC is assessing temporary options to shore up or bypass the damaged spans of the bridge. Their goal is to have these installed quickly if testing shows it wouldn’t be safe to allow the large trucks across the bridge. The federal agency pledged more details and a construction schedule when a plan has been decided on.
Contact Jim Elliot at firstname.lastname@example.org