Council may be frustrated with further delays on the Johnson Street bridge project, but they must bear some responsibility in the state of contract deliverance and cost overruns.

Council may be frustrated with further delays on the Johnson Street bridge project, but they must bear some responsibility in the state of contract deliverance and cost overruns.

Talk is cheap, bridge delays are not in Victoria

City council needs to show leadership on this potentially election-defining issue

During discussions about more delays on the Johnson Street Bridge project, which preceded the release of a “lessons learned report,” Mayor Lisa Helps indicated that she wanted to move forward on the matter.

The mayor and council would no doubt love nothing better than to put behind them the negative aspects of a project that has ballooned in cost far beyond the original $62.8 million – $49.2 million of which was approved by city taxpayers for borrowing, in a 2010 referendum.

Clearly, council cannot control all of the causes that have sent the cost to $105 million, such as continued delays on steel delivery from the Chinese manufacturer subcontracted by overall contractor PCL.

But let’s not forget that seven of the eight current members of council were either elected or re-elected in the fall of 2011, around the time that many of the original details of the bridge contract were being worked out. Four were on the previous council, which first discussed the need to replace the bridge.

While we agree with project manager Jonathan Huggett’s comment that council can only make decisions based on the advice they get from experts, this project has long since reached the point at which major contract penalties for non-delivery should have kicked in. If there’s anything council should have put their foot down on about before now, it’s the city’s legal position in this deal.

To say there have been lessons learned along the way sounds more like the city is making excuses than taking a strong stand in the situation. It certainly doesn’t hold water with Victoria taxpayers, whose temperatures continue to rise over the seeming inability of the city and council to stem the flow of cash into this stalled project.

Mayor Helps and council can only hope the bridge is completed by the time the 2018 municipal election rolls around. If not, the project will no doubt become an election issue for voters, who won’t care or likely remember that the mayor and anyone else connected to the project was anxious to put it behind them.

Johnson Street bridge