Victoria will pay PCL Constructors Westcoast a “fixed price” of $63.23 million to build a new Johnson Street bridge.
The amount is less than the $66 million the city budgeted, but some city councillors worry the $2.5 million allotted for contingency isn’t enough, given some of the risks the city will be taking on.
Others say the city has been selective in the information it released, leaving them unable to discuss publicly information that was provided to them at a closed meeting.
According to information released about the deal, the city has assumed responsibility should unforeseen geotechnical or archeological issues arise. It is also responsible if it’s determined in the final stage of design that more steel is needed.
The contract includes construction of a new bascule lift bridge that will include three vehicle lanes, on-road bike lanes, a multi-use trail for pedestrians and cyclists, and a pedestrian deck on the south side.
PCL expects site work to begin this spring, with construction of the bridge completed in the fall of 2015. The project is scheduled to be fully completed by March 2016.
Mayor Dean Fortin said he is confident the work will come in on time and on budget. “We’ve done some testing over the last year or two, and we’re fairly confident that we have identified all those risks and don’t think those risks will take place.
“But until you actually get in the ground making sure that happens, you don’t know absolutely for sure.”
Councillors Lisa Helps and Ben Isitt were the only two to vote against the contract. Helps said she hopes the project comes in on budget, but couldn’t be sure, given the risks the city has agreed to assume.
“We heard about the archeological risks. What if we dig up artifacts, then we need to slow the project down — potentially bring it to a halt — and that costs time and money,” Helps said.
“Staff talked about geotechnical risks — potentially unknown conditions on the seabed floor — and those costs would fall to the city.”
Isitt said he is constrained from discussing his concerns because they involve information from an in-camera meeting.
“I think the city is over-reaching the confidentiality provisions of the Community Charter by failing to disclose important financial information about the bridge project,” Isitt said.
Isitt and Coun. Geoff Young said there is discussion among councillors about getting more information released.
“It’s hard for me to comment on the contract, given how little is public,” Young said. “I feel more information about the contract can be made available, but that is obviously subject to a council decision and subject to advice we get about commercial confidentiality and what is and is not commercially confidential.”
The bridge will remain open during most of the construction period.
Included in the contract are decommissioning the old bridge once the new one is complete, improved road approaches on both sides of the bridge, an intersection with signals at Harbour and Esquimalt roads, widened sidewalks and pathways leading to the bridge, and landscaping.
The overall budget is $92.8 million, which includes legal, management and other costs. The federal government is providing up to $37.5 million; the balance is from reallocated capital budgets and borrowing of up to $49.2 million.
City staff say the contingency could be increased to $4 million through changes to bridge lighting, making abutment walls vertical instead of sloped and changing pile configurations.
As a result of an engineering modification, the ability to walk through and stand inside the lift wheel while the bridge is being raised has been restored, they say. Staff had earlier said the feature had to be dropped to compensate for structural weaknesses in the original design.
The bridge will have a two-year warranty.
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