Iconic walkway through Johnson Street bridge wheels loses some advertised appeal

Communication to Victoria council needs to improve: Alto

A change in scope to the new Johnson Street Bridge design will mean the public will no longer be able to walk through its wheels while the bridge is rising and lowering.

Watching the workings of the moving bridge from a walkway underneath was a feature once highlighted as part of the bridge’s appeal.

“You can still walk through the wheel,” said Dwayne Kalynchuk, director of engineering. “The only issue is when the bridge is open, you won’t be able to go there, so that’s maybe about four to five per cent of the time.”

The bridge span rests on two open wheels, located on the downtown side, which rotate to raise the bridge to its lifted position.

A pedestrian walkway was originally designed to pass through both wheels as a free floating structure, meaning not attached to the wheels. However, additional bracing required to strengthen the wheels has made that impossible. Now, the walkway will be attached to the side of the wheels, meaning it will also rotate when the bridge is raised.

Kalynchuk said this change in scope came to light late in 2011 and was brought to council’s attention in February 2012. It seems many on council, however, hadn’t grasped the change when they reaffirmed moving forward with the design, with a higher price, in mid March.

Coun. Geoff Young brought up his concerns about the change at a council meeting March 22.

This walkway “was given as one of the selling points,” he said. “Now we’re told it’s not possible.”

For Coun. Marianne Alto, the main issue is communication.

“One of the most challenging pieces for me, and the most frustrating, is that I haven’t been satisfied with the timeliness or the extent of information that we had,” Alto said Friday.

Better and more frequent communication by the bridge-replacement team was a key part of the motion when council passed the new $92.8-million project estimate.

Coun. Pam Madoff said the change in scope to the bridge is “not a dealbreaker.”

However, it does leave her with more questions.

“Having a walkway that works and makes sense is really important,” she said.

That means making sure the grade change from Wharf Street down to the walkway is wheelchair accessible, and that the walkway is safely closed to pedestrians before any bridge movement, she said.

rholmen@vicnews.com