News

Johnson Street Bridge costs still murky

Victoria councillors are keeping mum while they seek legal advice on what they can and can't reveal about a fixed-price contract for the Johnson Street Bridge project.

Coun. Geoff Young said the $63.2-million construction contract awarded to PCL Constructors doesn't include costs that should be considered part of the project.

One of those costs, argues Young, is the construction of a vertical retaining wall beside 203 Harbour Rd. to support an approach road beside the city-owned lot.

The vertical retaining wall, previously designed as a side slope on the city-owned property, will cost $640,000 to build, excluding taxes and preliminary design costs, said city spokeswoman Katie Josephson.

"It could be done later, however, it was felt a retaining wall would increase the future lease potential (of the property)," she said. "There are benefits to doing it now when a contractor is already working in the area."

The work will be completed by PCL and paid for with funds from the city's tax sale land reserve. The cost will be recovered from the increased lease revenue, Josephson said.

Young contends the cost is attached to the bridge project, because the work is required to contain fill from the west approach road.

"If that (Harbour Road) property was owned by somebody else, (the wall) would be required as part of the bridge project," he said.

Construction costs are capped at $66 million, including a contingency fund of about $2.8 million for unanticipated costs.

That amount could rise to about $4 million, should PCL find further efficiencies over the life of the project, according to a staff report.

The remaining $26.8-million cost of the project covers design, legal and insurance costs, as well as staff time.

Ross Crockford of watchdog citizens group johnsonstreetbridge.org said the contingency should be more substantial, as the final design of the bridge is only partially complete.

"If the design changes and the steel quantities are different, then the city could pay for that as well," he said.

At Monday's technical briefing, city staff said they have done all they can to mitigate possible delays that could arise from city-assumed risks, such as archeological discoveries or geotechnical changes in the harbour sea bed.

"But until you start digging out there, you really don't know," engineering and public works director Dwayne Kalynchuk said.

Young remains confident more details will be released in the coming weeks.

"There's a lot of information that isn't public," he said.

Construction is due to begin this summer and the bridge is slated to open in the fall of 2015.

dpalmer@vicnews.com

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