Building bridges for the Big Smoke: A Maritime company behind the striking structure

Nova Scotia has a well-established shipbuilding industry, but it appears Maritimers also have the skill to build complex bridges.

A Dartmouth-based company is in the process of fabricating a series of four bridges for Toronto’s port lands, part of a huge project in Canada’s most populated city as part of waterfront Toronto’s flood protection project.

Cherubini Bridges and Structures won the bid to build the bridges and has been working on the project for the past year and a half.

The job is so big, it has to be put together in sections. One of those sections is being built by workers at Cherubini’s Dartmouth waterfront fabrication site.

The steel structure is 250 feet long and weighs the equivalent of 450 cars.

“It’s more complex than anything we’ve done,” says Troy Garnett, Cherubini’s vice-president of sales and business development.

Garnett says the company’s waterfront location gave it an edge in its bid for the project. That’s because the curved steel beams used in the build are crafted in the Netherlands and have to be brought in by boat.

Those pieces are then assembled like a very big puzzle.

Then, the structures are being loaded onto a barge and sent to Toronto.

“We actually load this on transporters with many wheels on them, roll them out this facility, and then put it on a barge, roll it onto a barge and sail it up the St. Lawrence Seaway,” says Garnett.

One of the bridges, the Cherry Street North Bridge, is already in place in Toronto.

The first section of the second bridge, known as Commissioners Bridge - made its way to Toronto, making quite an impression last month.

Bringing its unique curved design to life requires a unique set of skills, and the patience to meticulously smooth out every weld to enhance the look.

“It's the aesthetics that the architects are looking for in Toronto, a nice smooth profile, they don't want to see the welds,” says Blair Nakatsu, general manager at Cherubini. “They want it to look like it was moulded out of plastic.”

Commissioners Bridge is designed by Entuitive, London-based Grimshaw Architects, and SBP.

There are about 150 Maritimers on the project, including a number of special contractors involved with the erection engineering and transport logistics.

All four bridges have a total length of 863 feet or 263 metres.

Even during the pandemic - the plan is to be finished by the end of the year.

“This is a unique project for us, it combines a lot of the skills that we have, but it's a unique project for sure,” says Nakatsu.

“This being done in Nova Scotia,” adds Garnett, “showcases the skill that is here in this province, we're very lucky to have the skills and the team that we have here at Cherubini.”

The team will be very busy over the next month - preparing the next section of Commissioners Bridge for its trip to Toronto in July.

In the end, it means that city will eventually have some striking new structures made right here in the Maritimes.