Jack Knox: Seven years later . . . a new Johnson Street Bridge!

Jack Knox mugshot genericMaybe this is what it felt like when the Berlin Wall fell.

“Is it true, Heinz, is it open?”

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“Ja, you go first.”

No point sticking one’s neck out.

That’s not in keeping with the New Year’s resolution I made for 2018 (and 2017, 2016 and 2015) when I vowed to be in the initial wave across the new Johnson Street Bridge.

Truth is, it’s kind of scary when something unlikely — such as the bridge actually opening — becomes reality. The capital region in particular has a long history of talking and talking and talking (or, as we call it, “making progress”) about things we’re pretty confident will never come true — amalgamation, rapid transit, regional policing, affordable housing, tsunamis, Victoria Mayor Stew Young — so it’s unsettling when they do.

Traditionally, construction decisions are not made rashly, if at all, here in Dysfunction-by-the-Sea. Nothing gets built overnight, or even overyear. We prefer process to results.

Yet here we are today, Sisyphus stunned to find himself atop the mountain, watching the rock roll down the other side, or at least to Vic West.

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A less charitable writer might point out that it has in fact taken more than seven years (the entire Second World War was fought in less than six) to build a bridge whose length a decent golfer could easily clear with a nine iron. This would be unkind, so I shall instead take a more positive tack and note that for many this is the first time they can remember a major infrastructure project ACTUALLY BEING FINISHED.

What’s shocking is the bridge is not the only example of Greater Victoria’s newfound get-’er-done attitude. At this very moment, construction equipment is trundling around the site of a new sewage-treatment plant at McLoughlin Point (the previously unspoiled Eden of Esquimalt, if critics are to be believed). In addition, there’s a freshly drilled passage under the harbour that will house a sewer pipe running from Ogden Point to McLoughlin (BTW, this is also the route refugees will take the next time Esquimalt and Victoria descend into civil war and the drawbridge is raised). Drilling of the cross-harbour passage went much faster than expected, resulting in the revocation of Vancouver Island residency permits for all involved.

Admittedly, we’re still not sure how the resulting sewage sludge will be piped from Esquimalt to the Hartland landfill (please, Lord, don’t let it involve Kinder Morgan, or the protests will bog this down for years) and we’re not sure what we’ll do with the sludge once it’s there, but we’re far enough into construction of the $765-million project that Victorians should no longer feel compelled to follow every visit to the smallest room in the house with an apologetic email to Seattle.

And there’s more! Every day, drivers stuck in the Colwood Crawl are treated to the sight of Tonka Toys heavy equipment working the edges of the Trans-Canada Highway as the McKenzie interchange slowly takes shape.

OK, maybe it’s not going as fast as first promised. The $85-million project was initially supposed to be finished this coming autumn, but that deadline got pushed back until the summer of 2019, with the finishing bits not completed until the end of that year. For commuters watching this daily diorama unfold, that’s like being stuck in the kitchen on Christmas Day, staring at the oven, watching the turkey cook. It will be ready at 5:30 p.m. Wait, no, 7 o’clock, but no stuffing or cranberry sauce until 8. Never mind, it will be worth it when it’s done. We hope.

The important thing is progress is being made. It’s unnerving.

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