Bridges. Tunnels. Overpasses. Many of us count on them daily to cross over (and under) rivers and other tricky spots without even really thinking about the details that go into designing and maintaining these structures. Sometimes, you might not even be aware there is a structure underneath you, supporting you on your journey. You may just continue driving on your way, without a second thought. Unless you work for the ministry’s Structural Engineering group. In which case, the health and safety of these structures (and those who use them) is always first and foremost in your mind. So, who are the people that help keep you moving and what exactly do they do? Read on.
Who is Structural Engineering?
Our Structural Engineering team is made of a wide variety of specialists located across BC. They are passionate about what they do and work collectively (and with others) to ensure the delivery of safe and efficient design, construction and operation of bridges and other highway structures on our provincial highway network. Our team includes:
- Inspection truck operators
- Construction supervisors
- Hydrotechnical engineers
- Structural engineers
What Exactly Do Structural Engineers Do?
The ministry has approximately 2,900 bridges and more than 2,800 other highway structures (think snow sheds, retaining walls, large culverts) in its inventory. Some of these structures are simple timber stringer bridges on remote roadways, while others are iconic, cable supported bridges connecting the Metro Vancouver area. The Structural Engineering team is responsible for all phases of a structure’s life cycle, including:
- Design of infrastructure and the management of contracted design work
- Asset management planning
- Construction supervision services
- Inspection of existing structures
- Highway expansion planning
- Policy and standards development
- Specialized services for seismic engineering and instrumentation
- Structural health monitoring
- Hydrotechnical engineering
- Helping ensure that heavy and oversized loads can travel safely around the province
From initial steps to construction and eventually, replacement the team contributes their expertise during every step in the life span of the infrastructure under our care.
A Rich History
The Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure is rich in bridge history and our Structural Engineering team continues to build on that history. The unique and diverse geography of our province often requires special planning and design when it comes to highway infrastructure. Many of the structures built by the ministry in the past and those which we are still responsible for stand as a testament to the expertise of our staff.
Building for the Future
As the ministry responsible for the safe movement of people and goods across our province, we must also consider the demands and needs of the future. The impacts of climate change, the rise in popularity of cycling and other modes of transportation, are all considered in the policy, design and building work done by the Structural Engineering group. They also contribute to the Canadian Highway Bridge Design Code as well as industry committees and working groups on the development of new and emerging technologies, standards, and initiatives.
It’s no small job – that’s for sure. The variety and ages of structure types is immense and the inventory is constantly changing and growing to serve the needs of the province. And structural engineering is there to provide expertise, service and support. Do you have any questions about Structural Engineering, or any other work we do? Let us know in the comments below.
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