Mike Lai, the City of Victoria’s director for the Johnson Street Bridge replacement project, is resigning as of July 6. He’ll be returning to Saanich as manager of transportation, a position he left four years ago.
“There’s a great opportunity with the District of Saanich,” said Lai, of his reason for leaving. “I look at is as a great benefit to me because it allows me to return to my roots, because most of my career has been in transportation planning.”
While Lai was hired by Victoria to fill the role of assistant director of engineering and transportation, he was seconded to the bridge project full-time in late 2010. Since then, he’s been in the hot seat, leading a complex and high-profile project subject to constant criticism from a number of community groups opposed the city’s direction.
Lai, however, said his departure is not related to these pressures.
“I don’t think it was any different from any other major project,” he said. “Any large project, because of the amount of time and effort that you put in … has its challenges but that was certainly not the reason for me taking on the position with Saanich.”
Victoria’s city manager of operations, Peter Sparanese will now lead the bridge project, with the support of Dwayne Kalynchuk, city director of engineering. Both men were seconded to the bridge project last month.
“Mike has been an integral part of this project and the engineering department for the last four years,” wrote Sparanese, in an internal email to staff. “We are extremely grateful for his professional contributions to the City and wish him nothing but the best in his new position.”
The city is now recruiting for a project manager to help guide Sparanese and Kalynchuk through the next phase of the project.
“This is a tremendously important transportation project in our Capital City, we must ensure we have the needed skills and experience to manage it to ensure best value and professional expertise is in place,” Sparanese wrote.
On June 25, three engineering firms shortlisted for the bridge job must submit indicative pricing to the city. Their estimates will not be made public but council will receive the information in a closed meeting. In the fall, one of the firms will be awarded the construction contract.
“The project is at a point where it’s going to quickly transition to the construction part of the project,” said Lai, describing his role to date as planning and development.
“If I was going to make a change, this is the logical point to do that.”