Huge crack closes lanes on West Gate Bridge
A giant crack on the West Gate Bridge is not a structural problem and is a likely to be a result of last week's heatwave, Vicroads says. All lanes should be reopen by tomorrow morning's peak.PT0M26S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-31496 620 349 January 20, 2014
Motorists are battling their way over the West Gate Bridge after a giant crack was discovered on the surface on Monday afternoon.
Vicroads closed two inbound lanes of the bridge near Williamstown Road until about 3.30pm and reopened them for peak hour, with a reduced speed of 60kmh. The two lanes will be closed again for repairs at 8pm but will reopen for Tuesday's morning peak.
VicRoads acting chief executive, Peter Todd, said the crack was "purely cosmetic", and most likely the result of last week’s extreme heatwave.
Mr Todd told 3AW Fairfax Radio the crack had "no safety risk" to the bridge.
"It may well be with the extreme heat and a steel bridge expanding in that heat and then contracting as it's cooled down may well have created this problem," he said.
"There's no evidence of any structural damage at all."
He said the surface cracking in lanes one and two was identified on a steel section inbound during a daily routine inspection of the bridge.
"An immediate more detailed inspection from inside the bridge identified that there was no structural defect, but just a cosmetic problem involving the cracking of the bitumen," Mr Todd said.
"The cause is believed to be a result of last week’s extreme heat causing the waterproof membranes underneath the asphalt to separate."
In August 2007, the Victorian Government announced a $240 million plan to identify and eliminate structural weaknesses in the bridge, prompted by the collapse of the Mississippi bridge in the US city of Minneapolis.
Despite these weaknesses, and concerns the bridge was dealing with traffic loads it was not designed for, it was announced in 2008 that the bridge would be widened from four lanes to five in both directions.
In 2011, the new lanes were opened and accompanied by strengthening works in the bridge that took two years to complete.
Each day it carries up to 160,000 vehicles, including 24,000 trucks, according to VicRoads.
With Stephen Cauchi