Amsterdam is paying the price for decades of overdue maintenance of quay walls

 Amsterdam is paying the price for decades of overdue maintenance of quay walls

There were no injuries, but it was a shock for many people in Amsterdam. A large part of the quay wall on the Grimburgwal collapsed on a Tuesday afternoon. Coincidentally, it was not managed by the municipality, but by the University of Amsterdam, says responsible alderman Sharon Dijksma. Nevertheless, the municipality is now working to solve the problem. The building has been evacuated and shows no risk of collapse.

The quay wall itself is a different story, says Dijksma: “We will further strengthen and stabilize the quay in the coming days. It is expected that there will be a little extra crumbling.”

According to Dijksma, little can be said about the cause. “We still have to investigate whether it has to do with overdue maintenance. A ‘sinkhole’ has probably formed.” With such a ‘sinkhole’, a lot of water suddenly washes away, for example due to heavy rain or a break in the water pipe, taking a lot of soil with it.

‘Not a sexy topic’

Many bridges and quay walls in the Amsterdam city center are in bad shape, says Dijksma. “We have done too little maintenance in recent decades.” An external survey carried out by the municipality last year showed that the city has been systematically allocating too little money for maintenance since the 1980s, because it was “not a sexy subject” and administrators prefer to spend the money on liveability or social projects.

The consequences have become visible in recent years: in 2017, for example, there was a huge ‘sinkhole’ on Marnixstraat, in 2018 a quay wall collapsed on Nassaukade. Last year, the city began mapping 829 old bridges in the city center. Of the 21 that have been fully investigated since then, ten were so badly off that they needed immediate reinforcement. All 80 suspicious quay walls that were investigated were also due for renewal.

Another 20 years to fix everything up

Dijksma: “Last year we started an extensive program to solve all that overdue maintenance in the coming years. But we have about 200 kilometers of quay wall to investigate and more than 800 bridges. We are now working eight times faster than before to renovate everything, but it will still take us about 20 years. ” Until 2023, 300 million euros have been allocated to solve the problems, but to solve everything, around two billion will probably be needed.

Technical innovation can already solve a lot, says Dijksma: “Nowadays we can use X-rays to record where there is movement in quay walls, almost to the millimeter. And we are also increasingly able to see what exactly is happening with divers underwater.”

Parking spaces or trees are already regularly removed if a weak area is discovered or bridges closed. But an accident such as on the Grimburgwal can still happen anywhere, says Dijksma: “It is a race against time. It is unpredictable where something goes wrong. Such a sinkhole can occur anywhere.”

Source: NOS.nl (link to original article in Dutch)

Competition to solve this problem – including space data!

The engineering department of the City of Amsterdam is looking for new solutions to monitor this infrastructure, to keep it safe and secure for the future. For this reason the city and Ministry of Economic Affairs and the Netherlands Enterprise Agency have launched an innovation competition (Small Business Innovation Research or SBIR). The competition closes on 22 October 2020. Interested parties can join an online information meeting on 9 September. See our article here for all info.

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