When Jonathan Huggett appeared before Victoria councillors on Thursday to provide an update on the progress of the Johnson Street Bridge, he didn’t have any significant problems to report or ask the city for more money.
Instead, he delivered the good news that the project is moving into some of the final stages and things are looking good. The steel fabrication and span support structure taking place in China is set for completion by the end of January, with pieces of the bridge slated to arrive in Victoria in May.
This, said Huggett, means the bridge will be on schedule to open by the end of 2017.
“One of the challenges at this stage in the project is people don’t see a lot of activity going on at the site, but there’s a huge amount of activity going on with this bridge. A lot of it is in other places,” said Huggett, the project director, who recently went to the plant near Shanghai where the massive bridge rings are being fitted to the trusses.
Photos of the various pieces being made were shown to council and are also available on the city’s website.
“It gives you a good idea that this bridge is beyond the state of the fabrication…when this arrives in Victoria, the whole set up will have already been assembled once and been assured that it does all fit together perfectly.”
The bridge has been plagued with problems over the last few years. In 2014, steel fabrication of the main trusses and a large ring rotating mechanism was halted after inspections found the steel was not being built to design and there were significant flaws. Last year, 75 cracked welds were detected on the steel deck surface, pushing the arrival of the steel back even further.
Contractors also asked for additional funding, causing frustration to brew amongst councillors and the city’s mayor who called the problems “extremely troubling.”
In 2009, the previous council approved a budget of $63 million to replace the bridge that was supposed to be in use by September 2015. The current budget for the project is now pegged at $105 million. As of Aug. 31, a cost of $76 million has been incurred.
During the next three months, city staff will continue to monitor the work being done on the steel element fabrication in China and the machinery fabrication taking place at a plant in Alabama.
According to Huggett, the quality assurance on the project is like no other with around 200 advisors from different countries working on various aspects.
“The amount of testing that is going on and the record keeping is quite outstanding,” said Huggett. “This is not one or two people, this is a very large team of experts…We can have confidence that when this product shows up that it will meet all the requirements.”
So far at the site in Victoria, a 24-metre pedestrian bridge over Esquimalt Road has been installed and crews hope to complete landscaping around the area before the rainy season begins. The majority of the work has also been completed on the west and east side of the bridge.
In the next week, Huggett said work will commence on the Janion Plaza, which includes a new stair on the north side of the bridge, public seating and space for a future sidewalk cafe adjacent to the Janion. The plaza is expected to be completed and open to the public by the end of the year.