Govt to review Superway in bridges audit

The South Road Superway will be among the 1500 bridges reviewed by the Government after a faulty overpass forced the temporary closure of South Road last week.

Jan 25, 2017, updated Jan 25, 2017
South Road Superway during construction in 2012. Photo: Nat Rogers/InDaily.

South Road Superway during construction in 2012. Photo: Nat Rogers/InDaily.

In 2015, an InDaily investigation uncovered workers’ claims that tonnes of steel reinforcement installed within the Superway had been heated and bent at temperatures that could render the steel structurally compromised.

A spokesperson for Transport Minister Stephen Mullighan this morning confirmed the 2.8 km elevated roadway would be included in the Government’s review of bridges across the state.

Asked whether the Superway’s piers would be x-rayed (to ensure they did not contain structurally compromised reinforcement steel) the spokesperson said that “external resources taking part in the review will provide advice on the appropriate method”.

Responding to the workers’ claims in 2015, the Government said that $842 million structure “has been built to the highest construction standards and it is structurally sound and 100 per cent safe for people to drive on” and that any damaged steel had been removed before concrete was poured.

But the Department of Planning, Transport and Infrastructure later refused to answer questions about an inspections ledger, compiled by contractor Urban Superway in 2011, that suggested the department had declined to inspect the process of hot steel bending on the site.

DPTI said at the time that it was unaware of any circumstances in which bars were heated beyond 450 degrees – the temperature at which reinforcement steel can lose half of its strength.

A DPTI spokesperson added that Urban Superway had developed a “specific procedure” to ensure the bars were not heated above 450 degrees centigrade.

The department would not detail the nature of this “procedure” but said its use was “rare” and that it was “witnessed by Urban Superway, the designer and the [DPTI] independent reviewer”.

“… under this procedure reinforcement was not to be heated beyond 450 degrees celcius,” the spokesperson said.

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“The department is unaware of any circumstances in which bars were heated beyond [450 degrees].”

The steel fixer who risked his career in the construction industry to air his concerns about the project, Dominick Lewis, told InDaily at the time that the steel reinforcement bars would be heated until they were “cherry red” and could be pushed over “with your finger”, adding that heat bending of steel on the site was not “rare”, but “commonplace”.

Other steel fixers who had worked on the Superway build had endorsed Lewis’s account of the procedure, but asked not to be identified, fearing legal and professional consequences.

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