Champlain challenge – structural monitoring

Work on the second major aspect of mageba’s contribution to the construction of Montreal’s iconic Samuel de Champlain Bridge – its SHM system, following after its expansion joints – is now about to draw to a close.

When projects like the construction of Montreal’s new Samuel de Champlain Bridge come along, we are delighted to be able to play a part in them – these are the projects that will never be forgotten by the people who work on them. So it has been doubly pleasing to supply this project not only with the expansion joints it needed – as reported in our newsletter of July 2019 – but also with its state-of-the-art structural health monitoring (SHM) system.

The bridge’s SHM system is an extraordinarily extensive one – in fact, it is by some distance the largest  ROBO®CONTROL SHM system ever supplied by mageba, and it was therefore also a great learning experience for us. With 255 sensors (measuring corrosion, structural temperature, strain, displacement, vibrations, tilt, position (GPS), weather conditions and visibility) and 26 data acquisition units, connected by 15 km [9.3 mi] of cabling, the complexity of the system as designed in accordance with national, provincial and project specifications was already challenging by any standard. But added to this was the installation challenge, involving the enormous size of the construction site covered by the system, access difficulties at many sensor locations (often requiring use of a shared barge or crane-lifted access basket), long cable lengths and sometimes harsh weather conditions. All of this culminated in an structural health monitoring project that began for us in 2016, and has now run almost four years.

This enormous monitoring project required the extended presence of a mageba SHM specialist on site for supervision, acceptance tests and coordination. Our Andrea Paciacconi, based in our Swiss headquarters, spent nine months on site, working in close collaboration with the bridge design engineers, the main contractor, his colleagues in mageba’s office in Montreal and the installation sub-contractor’s team of up to ten electricians. With commissioning of the SHM system now taking place (June 2020), Andrea is happy to be able to spend more time at home in the coming months, but also happy to have been able to play a very significant role in such an exceptional structural health monitoring project on such a fine example of modern bridge engineering.

“I would like to express my deep appreciation to SSLC, SSLG, T. Y. Lin and Grimard for their excellent support during my many months on their construction site, and for their strong spirit of collaboration in overcoming the different challenges we faced along the way in completing this huge project.”

Andrea Paciacconi, SHM specialist, mageba Switzerland

Bridge design: SNC-Lavalin, T.Y. Lin and International Bridge Technologies (Systra).
Bridge construction contractor: SSLC JV (SNC Lavalin, Dradagos, Flatiron, EBC).

The new Samuel de Champlain Bridge across the St. Lawrence River in Montreal, with its total length of 3.4 km [2.1 mi] and designed for a service life of 125 years, has been equipped with an extensive SHM system which will enable its inspection and maintenance work to be carried out efficiently and reliably


The bridge’s structural health monitoring system includes 254 sensors – a huge number by any standard for a bridge project – connected via 26 data acquisition units to the system’s control centre

The magnitude of the design challenge, and especially of the installation challenge, corresponded to the enormous size of the structure that was covered in sensors from one end to the other

Access for installation presented major challenges – for instance, where use of a site crane was required (e.g. for installation of corrosion sensors in under-construction piers such as this) or where the work had to be scheduled to suit other construction activities

A typical sensor installation access challenge

A weather station as installed on one of the bridge’s tower legs

Synoptic panel from the master station in the control room of the Traffic Management Center (TMC), showing a synthetic overview of the system status at any time

Example of real time data measurements as displayed on the master station