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Canada: Regulations Requiring Inspections of International Bridges

(Apr. 15, 2009) Trade with the United States is vital to the Canadian economy, as it accounts for over 80 percent of Canada's exports and approximately 53 percent of the country's gross domestic product. (International Bridges and Tunnels Regulations, Regulatory Impact Analysis Statement, 143:4 Canada Gazette (Feb. 18, 2009), available at
.) Sixty-two percent of this trade moves across the border by land crossings, and half of the truck crossings use three of the bridges that connect the two countries. In all, there are 34 bridges and tunnels connecting Canada and the United States, and 24 of these are used by motorized vehicles. Some of these bridges are operated by joint authorities and private companies, while others are operated by Crown [state-owned] corporations on the Canadian side of the border. (Id.)

In 2006, an overpass in Laval, Quebec, collapsed. This event instigated an investigation by the government of the state of the country's bridges and tunnels. Part of this investigation focused on the international bridges and tunnels. In 2007, Parliament enacted the International Bridges and Tunnels Act (2007 S.C. ch. 1, (last visited Apr. 8, 2009) to give the government the authority to enact regulations to promote bridge safety. The necessity of enacting appropriate regulations was re-emphasized by the 2007 collapse of the I-35 bridge in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

On February 18, 2009, the Government of Canada enacted the International Bridges and Tunnels Regulations. These regulations will require the 24 bridges used by vehicles to be fully inspected every two years, in accordance with the Bridge Inspection Manual published by the government. Bridge authorities will be required to submit reports to Transport Canada that will include not only safety information, but also information on restrictions on traffic and reports of complaints. Tunnels connecting Canada and the United States will have to be inspected annually. (Id., S. 5) The regulations do not apply to railway bridges and tunnels. (Id., S. 2)

In enacting the International Bridges and Tunnels Act, the government noted that the United States has already had a National Bridge Inspection Program in place since 2004. (23 CFR Part 650 (2004), available at
.) The Regulatory Impact Analysis Statement says that the Government of Canada will coordinate with bridge authorities in the United States in making any interventions that would affect bridges and tunnels on both sides of the border.