Ontario Provincial Bridges


The Ministry of Transportation owns and maintains 2,720 bridges across Ontario. From clearing snow to carrying out repairs, the Ontario government is committed to making sure that our bridges are safe and efficient for all travellers.

How Ontario Keeps Bridges Safe

Ontario is a leader in bridge safety. Our comprehensive bridge inspection standards have been adopted by other Canadian jurisdictions.

As a part of the Ontario government’s commitment to safety, all 2,720 provincial bridges undergo a legislated detailed bridge inspection every two years that is led or supervised by a trained, professional engineer. In addition, a general maintenance inspection is conducted at least twice a year. Bridge inspectors are trained engineers and technicians with several years of bridge-related experience and must have taken the Ministry of Transportation bridge inspection course.

Which Bridge Components are Inspected?

During inspection, inspectors carefully assess each part of the bridge and identify any maintenance work that needs to be completed. Each bridge component, as shown in the following pictures, is rigorously examined to ensure that bridge remains safe for travel.

The bridge components that are assessed are as follows:

Bridge components assessed during an inspection

Bridge components assessed during an inspection

Bridge components assessed during an inspection

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How Are Bridges Inspected?

Experienced, professional engineers and inspectors must also follow the guidelines in Ontario's Structure Inspection Manual (OSIM). This manual provides inspectors with specific inspection procedures that must be followed during all bridge inspections

There are four kinds of inspections that a bridge undergoes throughout its lifetime. They include:

  • Detailed visual inspection: which occurs every two years. This type of inspection includes the following steps:
    • Checking the general condition of the bridge.
    • Assessing each bridge component close-up. The inspector looks for any problems with the bridge's concrete or steel materials.
    • Identifying what repairs are needed for each bridge component and if additional testing is needed.
    • Reporting any potential safety issues to supervising engineers and maintenance crews. In these instances, the inspector immediately calls in a repair crew to fix the problem.
  • General maintenance inspection, which takes place twice a year (in the spring and fall). During this inspection, the following steps are taken:
    • Checking the general condition of the bridge.
    • In instances when there is a safety issue, the inspector immediately calls in a repair crew to fix the problem.
  • Road patrol inspection, which takes place on a regular basis. This inspection is conducted by a Maintenance Patroller. The Maintenance Patroller ensures that the bridge's roadway is safe. If there are any potential safety issues, the patroller will request a more detailed inspection of the bridge.
  • An emergency inspection takes place after a major vehicle collision involving one or more bridge components, a flood, an earthquake, etc. This type of inspection is carried out by a trained, professional engineer.

In some bridge inspections, inspectors may find chipped concrete or minor rusting on certain bridge components. This is the natural process of bridge aging. This does not affect bridge safety since all concrete bridge components have reinforcing steel embedded in the concrete.  While unsightly, the bridge is safe. A few examples of this include:

Concrete Pier Column with chipped concrete – does not affect safety or strength of the bridge.

Concrete Pier Column with chipped
concrete — does not affect safety or strength of the bridge.

Concrete Curb with chipped concrete and steel railing with surface rust – no effect on the safety or strength of the bridge.

Concrete Curb with chipped concrete and steel railing with
surface rust – no effect on the strength or safety of the bridge.

Other Types of Bridge Test Methods

Inspectors also use technology when testing certain bridge components. Some of the testing techniques that can be used include:

  • External technology testing
    • This includes ultrasonic and magnetic particle tests. This type of testing helps the inspector to determine if there is a crack that may be undetectable to the human eye.

Inspector using Ultrasonic testing during a bridge inspection.
Inspector using Ultrasonic testing during a bridge inspection.

  • Steel Fatigue inspections
    • For older steel bridges, external technology testing, such as ultrasonic testing is used to check for cracks in places where steel parts are connected.
  • Internal technology testing
    • Small samples of concrete or steel are removed from the bridge and then tested in a lab to check the strength.
  • Bridge load capacity tests
    • A special truck loaded with concrete blocks drives across the bridge while instruments attached to the bridge measure and record its movements. This measures how much weight the bridge can safely carry at one time.

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