Spring Cleaning: Why Wash a Bridge?

Just as people regularly maintain their vehicles to extend their vehicle’s life, the ministry looks after its bridges to ensure they perform safely.

Over the winter, bridges get dirty from the sand, gravel and anti-icing chemicals that are spread on icy roads. So, when spring comes, it’s time for annual bridge cleaning.

As with vehicles, the longer dust and road salt sit on painted bridge metal, the more it wears and fades paint. Even worse, salt eats away at steel, which makes up much of a bridge’s structure. Water can seep through the concrete sections, to the reinforcing steel, bringing corrosive salt with it.

Cleaning a bridge starts with removing dust and debris. The maintenance contractors sweep away winter sand by using a street sweeper or brooms, moving the debris toward the ends of the bridge, to keep it from entering the river. Then it’s time to wash. The drains on the bridge deck are blocked so that the water that has blasted the dust and salt can be directed off the ends of the bridge, into the roadside vegetation. That way, the water used to wash the bridge is filtered by the earth.

Water carried in a tanker truck is used for spraying the deck, and flushing away the salt. Power washers or air compressors are also sometimes used. In remote areas, water is usually drawn from a nearby waterway, because this is more cost efficient. But before that happens, the contractor must obtain a permit from the Ministry of Environment, which reviews the bridge washing procedures to ensure they meet environmental protection requirements.

Throughout the cleaning, the contractor is responsible for following environmental best practices established by the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure, Ministry of Environment and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. We need to be clean and be green. That includes working works around birds and bats when completing the annual bridge washing program.

The steps to identifying and avoiding birds and bats on bridges include recording information in the annual inspection records and pre-inspecting the bridge for the presence of birds and bats at the time of bridge washing.

Motorists may be affected by traffic control during bridge cleaning, as traffic may be reduced to alternating single lanes. While this might be an inconvenience, please think of it this way…

Just like vehicles, bridges get us where we need to go. Spring cleaning prolongs the life of our bridges and means safe passage for everyone.

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  1. There are two dead birds on the south bound off ramp from the granville street bridge to fir street that have been there for about a month now. Please have them disposed of as soon as possible. Thank you