In the recent interview by Christina Blizzard, published in the January 12th edition of the Toronto Sun, Ms. Blizzard approached OSPE asking if the engineering design of the Nipigon Bridge was flawed.
OSPE did state that it was too early at the time to determine the cause of the bridge buckling. As the discussion progressed, OSPE stated that although one of the General Contractors Ferrovial Agroman, is based in Spain, their partner, BOT Construction Group, is a competent Canadian company and both have the necessary experience and knowledge to do the job effectively. OSPE expressed that the engineering design is not the only explanation for the failure of the expansion bolts.
Throughout the conversation, many scenarios were explored, including the fact that various construction materials were sourced from different suppliers and any one of those materials could have been faulty or may not have met the design specifications indicated by the design engineer. Other possible explanations for the failure included installation issues or damage to the materials during transportation, neither of which has been identified as a cause yet.
What OSPE does emphatically state and advocate for is that Ontario should move toward a Qualification Based Selection (QBS) procurement process for infrastructure projects. Specifically, for the selection of architectural and engineering services for public construction projects. QBS is a competitive contract procurement process whereby consulting firms submit qualifications to a procuring entity (owner) who evaluates and selects the most qualified firms, and then negotiates the project scope of work, schedule, budget and consultant fees with these qualified companies.
Establishing a procurement process based solely on price, especially for complicated projects, is frayed with problems and runs the risks of firms being awarded projects they are unprepared for or with which they have difficulty fulfilling the contract requirements. (Recall the issues with the clearing of ice and snow on winter roads in Ontario, highlighted by the Auditor General in an earlier report). But OSPE would like to express that the discussion about the justifications of a QBS procurement process was never discussed in a context specific to the Nipigon Bridge scenario.
OSPE Board Member, Steven Rose, P.Eng., P.Geo., shares, “This bridge failure underscores the importance of engineering design and the need to recognize the environment in which engineering structures are expected to perform. The failure is an obvious disruption to an important transportation corridor, which forms part of the TransCanada Highway system.”