Johnson Street Bridge back on track

An army of welders is working on the parts needed for the new Johnson Street Bridge, which could have traffic rolling across in July 2017.

An army of welders is working on the parts needed for the new Johnson Street Bridge, which could have traffic rolling across in July 2017 rather than early 2018.

Last November, council was given the disappointing news that completion of the project had slipped to early 2018 due to steal fabrication problems in China. In response, council put down its foot and asked PCL (the contractor) to revise the project schedule to complete the bridge by the fall of 2017.

On Thursday, project manager Jonathan Huggett told council the city has been working closely with PCL to revise the schedule and the bridge should now be open to traffic in July 2017. The whole project is anticipated to wrap up later that year.

According to Huggett, the critical elements for sticking to the schedule are the ring structures (being fabricated in China), which are 50 feet in diameter and have to be perfectly circular. The structures are slated to arrive in Victoria by the end of the year.

“The fabrication of those rings is totally front and centre of my mind,” said Huggett, noting it will likely take two months of welding to make the ring structures. “You can imagine we have an army of welders on this project.”

The concrete roadway bridge decks are now complete, along with areas west of Harbour and Esquimalt roads. The focus is now shifting to the installation of some of the major machinery that opens and closes the bridge, which is being made by a company in Alabama.

“This (machining) is a very significant fabrication and this is key to the whole thing,” said Huggett. “If this is wrong, then we’re going to have problems opening and closing the bridge.”

Designs are also being finalized for the pedestrian overpass.

The bridge has been plagued by problems both structurally and financially.

In 2014, steel fabrication of the main bridge trusses and a large ring rotating mechanism was rejected, and most recently, 75 cracked welds were detected on the steel deck surface, pushing the arrival of the steel to the end of 2016.

The budget for the bridge is $96.854 million. As of Dec. 31, the budget had already reached $65.001 million and a number of unresolved issues remain that will require further additional funding.

The bridge was originally approved in 2009 with a total cost of roughly $63 million and was supposed to be in use by September of this year.