A unique perspective of the Johnson Street Bridge

The Johnson Street Bridge is like a giant building set to Jonathan Huggett.

Johnson Street Bridge project manager Jonathan Huggett shows off the recently-installed equalizer structure that will be used to help rotate the $105-million bridge once it’s complete in March 2018.

The Johnson Street Bridge is like a giant building set to Jonathan Huggett.

For the past few years, the City of Victoria’s project director has been working feverishly on the $105-million bridge and the fruits of his labour are slowly coming to fruition.

On Thursday, Huggett led media, mayor and councillors on a tour of the foundation that is being laid for the moveable bridge.

Walking down several flights of stairs to where the foundation is being laid, two equalizer structures have been installed at the base of the bridge. Two hand-welded steel rings, which are being fabricated in China and are 50 feet in diameter, will sit on the equalizer structures and rotate the bridge, along with a hydraulic motor.

The rings are expected to arrive in Victoria by the end of the year, for installation in early 2017.

The foundation has also been laid for a pedestrian walkway and a combined pedestrian and cycling walkway on both sides of the bridge to allow people to move seamlessly from Vic West to the downtown core as well.

Welding of the north and south trusses are complete, outriggers to support the various walkways are under fabrication and various sections of the orthotrophic steel deck are being assembled and welded together.

“That’s why you become an engineer. Going back to the days when I was a kid and I had my building sets, this is my giant building set. I have a lot of fun doing it,” said Huggett, who also worked on the SkyTrain and re-decking of the Lions Gate Bridge in Vancouver.

“This bares no resemblance to a typical bridge. Everything else is very different . . . It’s not everyday you build a moving bridge of this complexity.”

One of the most unique aspects of the bridge is once it is complete, pedestrians will be able to walk underneath it and see the mechanics of the bridge, and walk out the other side.

“On a normal bridge there would be a centre shaft. We haven’t done that. This is innovative. One of the initial architects had this vision that shouldn’t the public see the machinery?” said Huggett, adding they’re currently looking at the safety aspects of having a walkway under the bridge.

“As an engineer, I like to excite kids. I think it’s neat when kids can see machinery and understand the world isn’t static.”

The bridge has been plagued with problems over the past year. In 2014, steel fabrication of the main bridge trusses and a large ring rotating mechanism was rejected. Last year, 75 cracked welds were detected on the steel deck surface. The defects were properly documented and repairs complete.

Mayor Lisa Helps, who was also on the tour, is excited the bridge is coming to a conclusion.

“I know it’s been a painful project for the city and for the public. But hopefully after it’s open that will fade,” she said. “At the end of the day, 20 years from now, people won’t be saying ‘oh no, we paid a lot of money for that bridge and it took a long time’. What they’ll be saying is ‘wow, look at this jewel which is in the jewel of the Inner Harbour’.”

The bridge is expected to be open to traffic by December 2017, with the project completed by March 31, 2018.