Wednesday, July 20, 2011

City of Ottawa - Geotechnical Primer

Paradigms can be asked to show their worth, and some of them do not stand up.
Simon Blackwell, Think, Reasoning, p. 231

Have you ever met a retired Foundation Engineer? Didn't think so. It is about as rare as meeting a retired Ottawa firefighter or a retired homicide detective from any where in North America. The main reason in the case of the foundation engineer is the life of never ending stress. Yes, you will make a great living, as long as you can keep your PEO certification and get liability insurance. But just one screw up, usually through no fault of your own, and your whole practice, life, everything will be taken from you, just like a municipal politician that screws up, and gets voted out never to return...

Complex surface foundation Edinburgh

Have you ever taken a walk around the City of Ottawa? Especially downtown? Do you check out the construction sights of all those new high rises and condo towers? It is neat to look down the hole from the street and note the interesting layers of the sand, rock and clay layers isn't it? And isn't it somewhat weird that if you go only a block or two and look down into the hole of another construction site and the geology is almost always totally different? And do you notice those elaborate pilings and tension cables that might ensure the whole hole from sliding into itself? Yes, Dear Reader, a deep tower foundation anywhere in Ottawa is mighty tricky stuff, fraught with worry. You can do a search on Google about foundation collapses in Sandy Hill, but you may not want to upset yourself.    

The Big Dig, Boston MA.

Quick now, how many tunnels are there in Ottawa? Right! Not many! Why do you think that is? Back in the halcyon days of the Regional Municipality of Ottawa-Carleton the great Andrew Haydon and his most competent staff, all of whom, nearly to a man, were terminated like garbage upon the Conservative "Common Sense Revolution" of Mike Harris, already had a long term Transit Plan for the City of Ottawa way into this century! And, right again, there were no plans for any tunnels. Quite simply because once the core samples were seen it was a no brainer! Gophering around underground in the heart of the old city of Ottawa is totally foolhardy! Just ask anyone who has done something easy like dig a large hole anywhere in this geotechnical nightmare!

Big Dig, a small structual problem, really...

What can possibly go wrong you ask? Where does the Oracle of Ottawa begin? Let us take an easy to reference disaster. Have you ever heard of the Big Dig in Boston? It was a classic half vast project, built on many half vast ideas. It was a total train wreck, please excuse the pun. The Oracle of Ottawa is going to call it now. The so called modified light rail tunnel as proposed for Ottawa has all the makings of the same kind of mega screw up! The depth of the said tunnel has been reduced by over 50% yet the price of its proposed construction was not reduced by 50%. Why do you think that is? Do you think there is information in that? Have you heard any sustained and continued interest by a major Canadian tunnel contractor? Hmmmm...

Well, the good thing is, that when this all heads south there will be many good names and reputations ruined forever. I figure, for over two thirds of the present council it will be the best thing that ever happened for the tax payers and stake holders of any municipality that they will be unable to run for even the elected position of dog catcher in an American southern state!

Ya! But! They had the lowest bid! Got a problem with that? Here is some free tickets to the Chinese Opera...

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