Victoria’s Johnson St. Bridge costs rise and fall

Cost of removing underwater telecommunication line higher than first thought, city council told

The good news is that the liftable span of new Johnson Street Bridge can be shorter, and so cheaper than originally budgeted. Less soil contamination than anticipated will also bring savings.

The bad news? Dealing with the Telus line under the bridge has proven more complex, and costly, than first estimated.

Victoria’s bridge team came to city council last week with these findings as part of its quarterly status update on the $77-million replacement project.

So will the costs and savings balance each other out?

At this point, there’s no answer – except that any net costs will be taken out of the 15 per cent contingency fund.

Here’s what we know so far:

Telus line relocation: The one-metre-wide duct services all Victoria West, Esquimalt and the Department of National Defence, and runs directly underneath the bridge.

At first the plan was to try to work around it as much as possible. Now, that thinking has changed.

The line likely carries sensitive information to CFB Esquimalt, said Joost Meyboom of MMM Group, the engineering company overseeing the project.

“During construction, if you were to hit that duct, it would be a very expensive mistake. Most insurance companies won’t cover it.”

The new plan is to relocate the entire line instead of just a small portion of it, bringing the cost from $1.3 million to $2.4 million. The job will take one year. A contractor for the work will be selected by the end of the month.

Liftable span length: Currently, when a ship travels under the Johnson Street Bridge, a span 39 metres in length rises to allow the passage. An early study to replace the bridge determined the navigation channel should be extended to 47 metres.

Consultation with the Upper Harbour users, however, concludes 41 metres will serve both the present and future needs of the marine industry. The six-metre reduction in scope will create less strain on the bridge mechanics over time, and cost less to build.

Next, MMM Group will analyze the cost savings involved.

Soil contamination: While a multi-year cleanup effort of nearby Rock Bay has been dogged by contamination much worse than expected, the opposite finding on the west approach to the bridge promises significant savings.

“We have to excavate to get the road in,” said Meyboom. “Our intent there is, as much as possible, to reuse material as fill (rather than barging it as far away as Prince Rupert).”

Clean soil means it’s fit to stay.