Johnson Street Bridge problems “extremely troubling” for mayor

Lisa Helps promises not to undergo another infrastructure project in the same way that the Johnson Street Bridge has been rolled out.

Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps promises not to undergo another infrastructure project in the same way that the Johnson Street Bridge has been rolled out.

“I promise that we will never do another infrastructure project in the way that we’ve done this one, if there’s any comfort for the public in that,” she said.

During last week’s governance and priorities meeting, city council voted to postpone an additional $2.253 million requested by PCL, the contractor, to build the Johnson Street Bridge until they’re given an update on the quality of the products and have the opportunity to gather more information.

“Exceedingly frustrated. The fact that we’ve gone back to fabricate a second bridge in China and now there are problems with the second round is extremely troubling,” Helps said. “We expect (PCL) to get it back on track, in whatever way they want to do that. That’s their responsibility.”

The steel, being produced at the Jiangsu Zhongtai Steel Structure plant, has been riddled with problems over the past few years.

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

Ross Crockford, director of Johnsonstreetbridge.org, a watch dog of the project, said problems with the steel are symptoms of a much larger problem.

“The problems with the steel are a symptom of a much larger problem and that is that this is an experimental, untested design,” he said. “The working component is novel. It’s interesting to engineers, but the average person won’t care. They just want something that works and looks good. It doesn’t have to have a completely unique lifting mechanism.”

Coun. Ben Isitt asked if it would be possible to abandon the current design in favour of a more standard one. However, project director Jonathan Huggett advised against it.

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

The completion date has now been pushed back from spring 2017 to early 2018, with estimated completion costs ringing in at $98 million, if additional costs are approved.