Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Exclusive: storm makes B.C. Place a danger zone

Red "danger" tape surrounded B.C. Place Dec. 19.
So-called "ice bombs" from the cables of the new Port Mann toll bridge damaged dozens of vehicles on a stormy Dec. 19 -- just 18 days after its official ribbon-cutting by Premier Christy Clark.

Problems were apparent in the early afternoon when callers to the Simi Sara Show on CKNW AM 980 reported gridlock and being inside vehicles that had broken windshields or dented hoods and roofs. 

The Transportation Investment Corporation, the Crown corporation that oversees the $3.3 billion Port Mann Highway 1 Improvement Project, wasn't prepared for the storm and ought to have known the risk. The cable-stayed bridge wasn't built with mitigating measures, such as heaters to prevent icing. Falling ice is a problem at other, similar bridges, from Tacoma, Wash., to Toledo, Ohio. There is even a Danish academic study on the specific problem. 

But the Kiewit-Flatiron-built Port Mann Bridge wasn't the only cable-supported structure where chunks of ice were crashing to the ground. 

Workers at B.C. Place Stadium in downtown Vancouver were ordered to surround the building with red tape emblazoned with "Danger" in black, capital letters to keep pedestrians from walking under the towers to which the cables are connected after mini-avalanches of snow and ice crashed to the plaza below. 

Terry Fox Plaza was closed because of falling ice.
One of the Terry Fox statues at the foot of Robson Street was behind the tape and a stanchion. Outside the B.C. Sports Hall of Fame, the red tape was awkwardly tied around the right foot of the Percy Williams statue. The stadium was surrounded by a half-inch layer of slush and ice. 

According to a source, while daytime temperatures fluctuated, drainage pipes on the roof overflowed, causing flooding inside the stadium. 

This happened, coincidentally, the same day that lawyers for steel contractor Canam and cable installer Freyssinet were in B.C. Supreme Court for a judicial management conference. Canam claimed Freyssinet caused a $26 million cost overrun. Freyssinet is suing for $6 million. General contractor PCL and Crown corporation B.C. Pavilion Corporation are listed as defendants. The blockbuster trial is scheduled to begin in October 2013 and last 17 weeks.
Percy Williams statue outside B.C. Sports Hall of Fame

Heavy, wet snow was allowed to pile up on the roof of the stadium on Jan. 5, 2007 and management neglected to order the roof heaters be activated. A sudden spike in air pressure forced an avalanche that ripped open part of the former air-supported roof. That incident led to the $514 million, post-Olympic renovation that includes a retractable roof. Crews continued through the summer of 2012 to patch holes and replace panels stained by grease leaking from the cables. 

UPDATE (Dec. 20): PavCo interim CEO Dana Hayden did not respond to my query, but the stadium's marketing manager Duncan Blomfield claimed the closure was simply a temporary precautionary measure in "anticipation of falling wet snow." He denied there was any flooding in the stadium, but admitted that a "downpipe became temporarily disconnected and water spilled onto the field area. Buckets were used to catch the water until the pipe was reconnected in short time. The field area is self-draining, so there was never any issue with flooding."

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