Victoria councillor considers refurbishment of Johnson Street Bridge

Victoria Coun. Ben Isitt wonders if continuing with the new bridge is such a good idea, after news of more delays and more money.

More money and more time are on the agenda for the Johnson Street Bridge project yet again.

One Victoria councillor wonders if that time and money would be better spent on refurbishing the existing bridge.

“What magnitude of cost overruns will the council be prepared to accept? Because there’s going to be a price point where refurbishment may actually be a viable option,” said Coun. Ben Isitt. “If we start getting into a discussion of the tens of millions of dollars, at some point, taking a look at refurbishing the asset we have might be a financially responsible option.”

Mayor Lisa Helps, other councillors and project manager Jonathan Huggett, disagreed, saying the project is much too far along at this point to abandon it.

“We are, like it or not, a significant way down the road,” said Huggett. “We have a contract with PCL and we have a contract with MMM, and we are not wanting to break any of those contracts, because there would be significant consequences. We have no grounds to break contracts right now.”

Isitt questioned whether or not continuing to increase the budget is a good idea.

“It is very far along, and I think the preferred option is to complete the project within the available budget, but what I’m hearing from our staff is that there’s not enough room in the budget.”

The original contingency budget for the bridge was $2.4 million, four per cent of the total project.

Staff brought a recommendation to council on Thursday for them to consider increasing the contingency budget, which Helps said she thought was too little all along.

“I’m sure the original contingency budget wasn’t high enough, and that was one of my main reasons initially for voting against the contract,” she said. “But I’m also not interested in looking backward.”

Helps said this project is much too far along to stop now.

“It’s not a matter of opinion, it’s a matter of fact,” she said. “There’s no turning back unfortunately. My job is to try and steward this project to completion for better or for worse.”

In an effort to find any possible cost savings, Isitt recommended an amendment that staff prepare a report bringing forward options for council’s consideration to increase the project’s contingency and/or reduce costs, which council passed.

“If we’re going to be asked to increase the budget, we also want to know where there are opportunities going forward for cost savings,” said Helps.

City manager Jason Johnson said those options for cost savings are “rather limited.”

Regardless, Isitt said his top priority is containing the cost of the bridge.

The report outlining the extra money needed for the contingency budget along with any possible opportunities for savings will be given to council at the end of February.

In the meantime, fabrication of the steel for the bridge is not slated to recommence until March 2015, and is tentatively scheduled to be shipped to Victoria in March 2016. This puts the targeted completion date at January 2017, a 10-month delay.

 

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