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View Full Version : River Valley stairs and walkway construction and maintenance.



Edmonton PRT
15-02-2010, 04:01 PM
As a fan and active user of our biking and walking trails, I am concerned with the construction and maintenance of our river valley stairs, bridges and walkways. The standard construction material the City uses is pressure treated spruce lumber. They spend lots of money to build infrastructure like stairs but fail to maintain them properly. Pressure treated wood (PTW) cannot be painted when new but according to architects and builders, PTW should be stained, painted or otherwise protected after the initial installation.

This important second step is often not done and I see many instances where stairs and structures begin to splinter, degrade and rot within a year or two. This requires constant replacement of boards and reconstruction of stairs every year. Much of the PTW is made from poor grade spruce and I have found new boards that were installed that had rot in them as supplied from the mill. Boards are often used for stair treads that have not been incised and they do not have adequate preservative penetration on their board faces. Another issue is that PTW is very toxic and scraps cannot even be placed in our garbage collection so why are we using it in our river valley park system?

Building stairs is very expensive and the lumber is only a small portion of the overall costs. The labour to build the stairs is very expensive and not painting or staining them a few months later or in the following year to protect them lowers the time hat they will last and allows more leaching of the hazardous preservatives into the ground. It is far more expensive to replace a stairs after only 5 or so years than to paint it and maintain it properly to last a decade or more. Our river pedestrian bridges are stained properly as are some foot bridges like a couple of them on Mill Creek (some even have stainless steel hand rail covers) but many others are not protected and are in constant need of repair and replacement.

I have been to places like Atlantic City where the boardwalk is constantly exposed to rain, salt water, ice and incredible amounts of foot traffic, They do not use PTW but use naturally rot resistant woods that do not require replacement for 50 to 80 years.

Do you think that we should be painting our existing PTW infrastructure and using better quality rot resistant woods that would last longer and not leach toxins into the environment?




Unfortunately the impregnation of Spruce, the most important structural timber large areas in Europe has shown that unsatisfactory treatment depths have been achieved with impregnation. The maximum penetration of 2 mm (1/12 in.) is not sufficient to protect wood in weathered positions.
http://encyclopedia.thefreedictionary.com/Pressure+Treated+Wood


http://www.canada.com/ottawacitizen/news/homes/story.html?id=23a1217b-9527-4ebb-81f1-97cf362d841d



Why does pressure-treated wood need to be coated with a preservative? If it's so dang tough, why bother?
Though the infused preservative prevents rot, it does not inhibit weathering...
The effects of the elements on pressure-treated wood are no different than with ordinary wood. So a preservative is a must, and should be applied as soon as possible after your project is completed.
Rapid drying causes warping, cracking and splintering...
Pressure-treated lumber is shipped to the lumberyard in stacks that are tightly bundled and damp... sometimes even wet. If you go and pick through a bin of pressure-treated lumber, you will see some pieces are straight, and others moderately to wildly warped. The warped pieces are invariably the pieces that were on the outside of the bundle... exposed to the sun and air and dried on one side. Once the bundle is broken they twist like Chubby Checker!
Once installed in your project and subjected to freely moving air and the sun, the same effect occurs. Shrinkage of deck boards can be excessive, in both length and width, and twisting can loosen railings and floor boards. Railings can become cracked and splintery, making them uncomfortable to use.
http://www.naturalhandyman.com/iip/infxtra/infpre.html

Sonic Death Monkey
15-02-2010, 10:55 PM
I often use the stairway that goes from behind the Chateau Lacombe to Telus Plaza, and I often wonder why they can't build a more durable solution? Especially considering that it is connected to a long concrete stairway alongside the Chateau Lacombe.

RTA
15-02-2010, 11:10 PM
Just a guess, but given that the banks and hills shift quite a bit around here, I imagine we don't build more durable solutions because they're bound to need tearing up and rebuilding every 5-10 years anyway.

Again, just a guess.

In the grand scheme of things, though, a certain nameless interchange in the southside is "expensive." I wouldn't call wooden stairs "expensive."

andy8244
15-02-2010, 11:58 PM
...The poor old stairs will no doubt begin to take a pounding again in a month or two when all the smug gym gerbils emerge from hibernation desperate to burn off the last of their winter fat reserves.

Marcel Petrin
16-02-2010, 06:40 AM
Not directly related to the original topic, but I thought it pretty ridiculous how long it took city crews to rebuild the stairs behind the Royal Glenora last summer. I don't know how many man hours were actually spent, it seemed like there were days and even weeks between any progress happening, but it must have taken a full month, maybe even two, to tear down the original set, drill new piles, and reinstall the new ones. I couldn't help but wonder why City of Edmonton crews were doing the work when a private contractor would likely have built the same stairs for significantly less money, and much more quickly.

Chmilz
16-02-2010, 08:45 AM
...The poor old stairs will no doubt begin to take a pounding again in a month or two when all the smug gym gerbils emerge from hibernation desperate to burn off the last of their winter fat reserves.
No way! Really? People use stairs? I thought they were just for decoration. Explain why someone that hits the gym is smug?

Chmilz
16-02-2010, 08:48 AM
On the original topic: If there's opportunity out there to use different wood or treatments to make them more weatherproof, I don't think it would be a bad investment. However, as RTA suggested, perhaps they've determined that the current technology is cost effective if total replacement is required due to shifting terrain anyway.

IanO
16-02-2010, 08:50 AM
Not directly related to the original topic, but I thought it pretty ridiculous how long it took city crews to rebuild the stairs behind the Royal Glenora last summer. I don't know how many man hours were actually spent, it seemed like there were days and even weeks between any progress happening, but it must have taken a full month, maybe even two, to tear down the original set, drill new piles, and reinstall the new ones. I couldn't help but wonder why City of Edmonton crews were doing the work when a private contractor would likely have built the same stairs for significantly less money, and much more quickly.

no friggen kidding... perhaps the most used piece of "outdoor equipment" in the city and it took a eon to get back up

Edmonton PRT
16-02-2010, 09:59 AM
On the original topic: If there's opportunity out there to use different wood or treatments to make them more weatherproof, I don't think it would be a bad investment. However, as RTA suggested, perhaps they've determined that the current technology is cost effective if total replacement is required due to shifting terrain anyway.

The ground shifts but not that much relative to the life cycle of wood. Concrete would not work well because there would be a large foundation required and would be incredibly expensive to build on the unstable slopes. And I am seeing that stairs and bridge decking been replaced after only a few years. Making them out of better quality wood or even composites may be a better way to go. Pressure treated wood is already quite expensive and it is really crap, even something like oak when bought large quantities is not much more expensive but boy would it last longer. And when we are paying so much for labor who cares if we pay a little extra for better quality wood and not have to do the job again for 20 or 30 years.

I would never built a deck even for a residential use out of pressure treated wood.

sundance
16-02-2010, 10:35 AM
I was so tired of the city taking forever to fix some steps that I decided a little "guerrilla repairs" were in order, did it myself. I don't understand where the city demands us to shovel THEIR sidewalks and more THEIR grass they can't fix their own steps.

Edmonton PRT
16-02-2010, 12:02 PM
Because they are too busy with their EXPO bid and designing our new arena...

Medwards
16-02-2010, 12:05 PM
^ oh please that's weak. Is that all you got?

/facepalm

MylesC
16-02-2010, 02:43 PM
Because they are too busy with their EXPO bid and designing our new arena...

Then why has it been a problem for years and years?

Perhaps they're too busy filling potholes.

Titanium48
16-02-2010, 03:44 PM
River valley trail stairs get a lot of pedestrian traffic. Any paint or stain would be worn off within a month or two. A twice-yearly paint job would probably be more expensive than replacing a few steps every year.

I would agree that the support structures should be better protected if they are requiring a complete rebuild after 5 years though. Total reconstruction is far more expensive and disruptive than replacing stair treads, and where there is no surface wear to worry about a good protective coating might last for several years.

Edmonton PRT
16-02-2010, 06:21 PM
True, but the boards often rot from the underside or the ends. The treads will wear and can be easily be replaced. Even if a stair structure is painted or stained once, it will last far longer than one that is not. It is also very easy to paint the wear surfaces with a power sprayer. You can do hundreds of square feet in a hour.

When I built my fence, I stained all the boards before installing. That way you get complete coverage. I used untreated spruce, stained white for the pickets and they are as good as new after three years

MylesC
16-02-2010, 06:57 PM
Perhaps write a letter to Parks and Rec. There may be a reason why things are done the way they are.

Medwards
16-02-2010, 08:56 PM
Perhaps write a letter to Parks and Rec. There may be a reason why things are done the way they are.
No way MylesC, this can't be true. The city is out to raise all your taxes and spend your tax dollars foolishly on excessive stair replacement and sanding city streets for safety. You know the city doesn't do any research on any subject, and just does stuff haphazardly...

Marcel Petrin
17-02-2010, 08:57 AM
Medwards, let's be realistic here. While there's no nefarious plot to do things poorly afoot, I don't think there's much question in anyone's mind that the city can be capable of some pretty boneheaded decisions and policies. Again, there's absolutely no reason for it to have taken as long as it did to replace the RGC stairs. There was an ATCO trailer on site for well over a month if memory serves.

MylesC
17-02-2010, 09:09 AM
So then we're back to the "write a letter" ;)

Marcel Petrin
17-02-2010, 09:18 AM
No disagreement there.

Medwards
17-02-2010, 11:29 AM
Medwards, let's be realistic here. While there's no nefarious plot to do things poorly afoot, I don't think there's much question in anyone's mind that the city can be capable of some pretty boneheaded decisions and policies. Again, there's absolutely no reason for it to have taken as long as it did to replace the RGC stairs. There was an ATCO trailer on site for well over a month if memory serves.
I'll agree with what you've said, but some people on this forum go to awful lengths and try to allude that this city is out just to spend their tax dollars foolishly, when that isn't the case.

Edmonton PRT
18-02-2010, 08:32 PM
Medwards, let's be realistic here. While there's no nefarious plot to do things poorly afoot, I don't think there's much question in anyone's mind that the city can be capable of some pretty boneheaded decisions and policies. Again, there's absolutely no reason for it to have taken as long as it did to replace the RGC stairs. There was an ATCO trailer on site for well over a month if memory serves.

A private company rebuilt a small retaining wall on 76th ave in the Mill Creek ravine. Just dry stacked concrete blocks, no concrete, no reinforcement, no ground anchors. They blocked both lanes in either direction for 6 weeks, the only thru way between 82nd ave and 63 avenue. They did not perform any work for days on end even with good weather. :mad:

sundance
22-02-2010, 11:04 PM
A good system that seems to work is a combination of performance bonuses and penalties, plus "lane rental" fees. If one finishes a job early they receive a bonus of a certain amount per day, if they are late they are penalized a certain amount a day.

The lane rental charge is when a company has to close a traffic lane (some projects only during rush hour) then a certain amount is deducted from the contract. In some projects certain lane closures are necessary Quesnel Bridge for example, so the only realistic charge would be if they had to close more lanes.

PRT in your case you should have complained to your councillor, as well as the Transportation Department.

Marcel Petrin
23-02-2010, 09:51 AM
Medwards, let's be realistic here. While there's no nefarious plot to do things poorly afoot, I don't think there's much question in anyone's mind that the city can be capable of some pretty boneheaded decisions and policies. Again, there's absolutely no reason for it to have taken as long as it did to replace the RGC stairs. There was an ATCO trailer on site for well over a month if memory serves.

A private company rebuilt a small retaining wall on 76th ave in the Mill Creek ravine. Just dry stacked concrete blocks, no concrete, no reinforcement, no ground anchors. They blocked both lanes in either direction for 6 weeks, the only thru way between 82nd ave and 63 avenue. They did not perform any work for days on end even with good weather. :mad:

No one's saying private contractors are a perfect panacea. If the contract, specification or scope or work wasn't done properly any project can quickly turn in to a gong show.