Multi-million dollar litigation starts over Aiport Parkway pedestrian cycling bridge

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Ottawa Construction News staff writer

The City of Ottawa has filed a legal claim against WSP Canada Inc, the company formerly known as Genivar, relating to the Airport Parkway pedestrian cycling bridge, though the results of what will likely prove to be one of the more complex examples of construction litigation are far from determined.

The project, now due to be completed later this year – three years later than its original schedule – is expected to be $4.7 million more costly than its $6.5 million original budget, according to published reports.

In early June, the city announced it had filed its claim. “We are calling on Genivar to pay for the $4.6 million in costs that have resulted from their design,” Mayor Jim Watson said in a news release.  “This multi-million dollar claim demonstrates our commitment to holding outside consultants accountable for the role they played in this troubled project.”

The Ottawa Citizen reported that three days later, on June 6, the claim was amended to more than $5.8 million, plus an unknown amount to be provided before trial.

“As further details with respect to the quantum of the icty’s damages become confirmed, the claim for damages is amended accodingly,” city solicitor and clerk Rick O’Connor said in an email to the newspaper.

At the finance and economic development meeting on June 3, when the lawsuit was announced,  city councillors received an update of actions following an independent report on the projet from March that made recommendations to city procedures, as it detailed staff communications issus and faulty procedures that contributeed to the project’s problems.

“Watson confirmed on June 3 that no city staff had lost their jobs over the fiasco, but disciplinary lettters had been appended to staff files and there was at least one suspensionw ithout pay, although the mayor wouldn’t say how many staffers have been suspended , nor their seniority or the duration of the supensions,” the Ottawa South News/EMC reported in July.

The complex legal filing names several particpants, including general contractor Louis W. Bray (LWB) Construction Inc., which hired Cumberland Ready Mix to provide a self-consolidating concrete mix that was necessary for the tower structure placement charactersistics.

The first public sign of problems with the project occured when, according to the litigation, signfiicant desefects were discovered when the dconcrete forms were removed from the lower tower pour.

“A report by A. Dagenais & Assoc. Inc., commissioned by LWB, concluded the tower must be demolished and reconstructed,” the Daily Commercial News and Construction Record reported.  “This delayed construction by more than 12 onths and generated claims by LWB, Cumberland Ready Mix and the city.”

There would be more problems. There were issues resurrounding the anchor plate and the “fabrication and placement of this stay anchor” — and more pblems occurred when LWB’s crews attempted to “align the anchor plate to within acceptable tolerances for erection of the rod stay connections to the bridge deck.”

The litigation filings say that, after a critical site meeting to discuss the issue, there was a third-party review by Buckland and Taylor, who observed several problems.

The city decided to dismiss Genivar and hired new consultants, Delcan Corporation, to redesign the bridge with a more conventional cable stay system.

Bray is continuing to work on the project and, in line with its contract with the city, has not commented publicly on the issues behind the controversy.  WSP has also declined comment, and outside of the news release, Mayor Watson has said little about the lawsuit.

The lawsuit’s assertions have not been proven in court.

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