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Keeping an eagle eye on sustainable bridge design

Balancing nature and growth on the Low Level Road—with sustainability always in focus

By Kip Skabar, Senior Associate, Transportation (Vancouver, British Columbia)

It was opening day. Our project team was walking across the Spirit Trail (Moodyville) Woodland Suspension Bridge during final construction inspections for the Low Level Road (LLR) project. Suddenly, a bald eagle soared above us. We could see a baby eaglet perched below the bridge. In this breathtaking moment, it hit home for me how sustainable bridge design can make a real difference.

The LLR project involved the widening of a major arterial road and design and construction of four unique bridges in North Vancouver, British Columbia. When a bald eagle’s nest was discovered at the site for one of the bridges (Moodyville Pedestrian Suspension Bridge), special efforts were made by our design and construction team to protect the densely-vegetated creek area and the eagle nests in it during construction. A short time after the bridge was constructed, reports of eagle sightings came in—a good sign that our environmental mitigation measures had worked.

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We achieved a high level of sustainability across other parts of the LLR project as well. For example, we designed for the integrity of the roadway over a 200-year lifespan through slope stabilization, seismic design, realignment of the roadway above future sea level rise, and other techniques.

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The project also offers long-term benefits in terms of port terminal development. For instance, our design for the Neptune/Cargill Overpass allowed it to be lengthened for future expansion and minimized life-cycle costs through jointless bridge construction. Overall, the LLR project has been stimulating sustainable growth and development by enhancing community productivity and efficiency and generating employment opportunities locally. Other benefits to the community include enhanced safety, reduced congestion, reduced noise pollution, improved connectivity, and expanded port terminal facilities (which increases tax revenues and contributes significantly to Canada’s Gross Domestic Product).

In addition to supporting economic growth and enhancing functionality in a busy transportation corridor, our work has produced context-sensitive bridge design solutions that have become iconic landmarks. This project and these solutions wouldn’t have been possible without the community’s input and support; numerous public consultation and public engagement meetings were held that informed the final design. The project was funded and delivered through the Port of Vancouver with support from the City of North Vancouver.

As a north shore resident, I’m glad I could contribute to something that is truly making a difference in the community—literally in my own backyard.

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Kip will be discussing the Low Level Road project in detail at the IABSE Conference at a session entitled Value Engineering & Sustainable Design of Municipal Bridges, Low Level Road Project, which takes place 3:30-5 p.m. Friday, Sept. 22.

The Low Level Road project has been stimulating sustainable growth and development by enhancing community productivity and efficiency and generating employment opportunities locally.

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