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Terrorism fear queues bridge study

OTTAWA, Ont. -- Since Sept. 11, Canadian truckers have been 'what-if'-ing about a possible terrorist attack aimed a...

OTTAWA, Ont. — Since Sept. 11, Canadian truckers have been ‘what-if’-ing about a possible terrorist attack aimed at a busy bridge connecting the country’s vital transportation grid.

It appears these fears have finally prompted the federal government to investigate the idea by way of detailed security inspections of 14 bridges throughout the nation.

The bridges will be examined from top to bottom by inspectors who will check their structural strength, resistance to impact and whether they are susceptible to “catastrophic collapse.”

Authorities have identified bridges as a safety priority “because of their vulnerability,” says a spokesman for the Federal Bridge Corporation, which operates several of the structures.

“They’re wide open,” he notes. “The key thing is that, for the bridge users, it’s very reassuring that this initiative is underway. It makes you feel that at least the government is doing something.”

The inspections will likely cost between $75,000 and $125,000.

The bridges include five in the Ottawa area, four elsewhere in Ontario, three in Montreal and two in Atlantic Canada, one of which is the 13-kilometre long Confederation Bridge linking P.E.I. and New Brunswick.

But at least one Canadian analyst says yesterday bridges are not ideal targets.

“If I was a terrorist … I think I would probably want to attack a building instead, because that way I’d have a better chance of killing large numbers of people,” John Thompson of the Mackenzie Institute, a national security-oriented think-tank, tells local media.

“I wouldn’t put too much money in this study. And if you’re worried about infrastructure, tunnels are more important … You really have the potential for killing large numbers of people there.”

The operators of international bridges not owned by the federal government are conducting similar studies and there are plans for all the operators to sit down and discuss a possible common security plan.

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