LETTER: Infrastructure projects not without problems

The Johnson Street Bridge project may not be in quite the same league, but the experience isn’t all that different.

Re: A bridge too far? (News, Jan. 28)

The Johnson Street Bridge is not the first infrastructure project to generate controversy.

In 1906, my grandfather, Alban W. L. Butler, a young civil engineer newly arrived from England, began a job that occupied his entire 40-year professional career:  the exploration, survey, design, construction and maintenance of Ontario’s fourth Welland Ship Canal.

The concept, scope and designs were beyond anything hitherto attempted, and attracted supporters and detractors of all stripes.

After construction commenced in 1910, there numerous delays and setbacks, some lasting years, due to:  a world war; shortages of skilled labour, steel, concrete, power and money; design improvements; and flooding caused by extreme weather events.

Each delay made the press as politicians and mouth-pieces of the day berated or extolled the virtues of their predecessors or those in power or in charge at the time.

The Welland Ship Canal – eight miles of canals, 11 massive lift-locks and 21 movable bridges – officially opened in 1932. The original plans and estimates had the Canal opening in 1918 at a cost of $55 million (1912 dollars). The final cost was $155 million (1932 dollars).

The Canal was considered at that time to be one of the major engineering projects of the world. It took vision, determination and leading-edge engineering to bring it about. It’s still operational today.

The Johnson Street Bridge project may not be in quite the same league, but the experience isn’t all that different.

Hopefully in a couple of years we can see our vision come to fruition and be delighted by it, and in the 22nd century look back and thank all those who took part.

David Butler, Esquimalt