If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. That’s one of the lessons Victoria city council will be taking away from the controversial Johnson Street Bridge project.
With the costs continuing to soar and the recent announcement that the bridge opening will be delayed another three months, project manager Jonathan Huggett has released a list of lessons learned so far and how they can be applied to future capital projects in the city.
The main lesson is the identification and management of risk and the need to have an adequate contingency fund with which to deal with those risks when they arise — risks that could delay the project and push it over budget.
“In moving forward, council needs to be given a clear explanation of the risk its assuming and who else is responsible for the risk. You need to look at every project, understand the risks you’re assuming and putting the right amount of money aside for when those risks come up,” said Huggett, adding during the procurement process in 2012, only 10 per cent of the bridge had been designed with a four per cent contingency fund.
“The project has to be fully scoped. The Johnson Street Bridge was not fully scoped. All kinds of things were missing or were not thought through and that’s what’s gone on for the last three or four years.”
PCL Constructors WestCoast Inc., responsible for building the bridge, subcontracted fabrication of the bridge’s steel deck to ZTSS Bridge in China. That should have been identified as a major risk, Huggett said, but was not addressed.
The language barrier, the distance from Victoria and ZTSS’s unfamiliarity with North American standards for steel fabrication also added to challenges.
While a number of risks were not addressed, Huggett said councillors relied on experts to bring accurate and relevant information and were “not given good advice.”
The bridge project has left a bad taste in many councillors’ mouths and has caused them to pause when it comes to upcoming capital projects, including the Crystal Pool replacement, which must go to referendum to approve borrowing up to $69 million.
“This report is key to building public trust in terms of building other capital projects. The key is how we implement lessons learned,” Coun. Jeremy Loveday said.
For her part, Mayor Lisa Helps said, “I’m not going to look backward on this one … I want to look forward. It’s not the same people who are running the Crystal Pool, bike lanes and fire hall that were running the bridge project.”
The total costs for the bridge have climbed to $105 million so far, roughly $43 million over the original budget.