Big lift at new Johnson Street Bridge: Where and when to watch

A big crane is in town for a big job this weekend at the construction site of the new Johnson Street Bridge.

Major components of the bridge, designed to be raised so that marine traffic can pass, are scheduled to be lifted into place Saturday and Sunday by the Dynamic Beast, one of the biggest cranes working on the West Coast.

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The best place to watch will be at the foot of Swift Street, in the Mermaid Wharf area, said Jonathan Huggett, the City of Victoria’s project director for the bridge. People should avoid the existing bridge because its viewpoints are less than ideal, he said.

“If you are coming down to watch, go and stand near the Mermaid Wharf area where you are out of the way of traffic. You’ll get the best possible view in that location.”

The existing Johnson Street Bridge will be closed to traffic off and on for long periods. Huggett’s advice is to steer clear of the old bridge.

It will be possible to cross at times, “but you would be far better off going to Bay Street.”

Huggett said installation of a 160-tonne lower counterweight — which helps the structure move up and down — and one of the two 290-tonne ring components is scheduled for Saturday. The counterweight installation will go first, from about 8:30 to 10:30 a.m., followed by the ring from about 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

The second ring is to be installed from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sunday. High winds could cancel today’s work, but are not in the forecast.

The rings are part of a mechanism that allows the bridge to pivot when it goes up and down.

“Obviously, these things take several hours to put in place,” Huggett said.

The new bridge, like the old one, is designed to lift so that marine traffic can pass.

Huggett said there has been plenty of preparation.

“We’ve already done extensive work to ensure these things are a perfect fit,” he said.

“I don’t anticipate any problems with a perfect fit.”

Friday’s arrival of the towering crane dubbed the Dynamic Beast, needed to lift the bridge pieces, was an exciting time for people involved in the project, Huggett said. “It’s a big step it, it’s a big visual step,” he said.

“For the first time people are going to start seeing the pieces of the bridge in their final location.”

Today’s work will begin with the barge holding the Dynamic Beast transporting parts close to the new bridge site.

“Hopefully by Sunday night the Dynamic Beast will go back to Vancouver where it came from, and that will be end of this first lift,” Huggett said.

“And then we have a lot of work to do to finish up that area, to make sure it’s all aligned.”

But Victoria hasn’t seen the last of the Dynamic Beast, he said.

“This crane will come back the first week in February and lift the main span into place, and then they will bolt that together,” Huggett said.

“At that point, the bridge will be almost finished and then we simply have to test and work through any problems that are there so that we can open to traffic at the end of March 2018.”

His said the public should steer clear of the existing Johnson Street Bridge. “The bridge will be shut down to traffic for maybe two to three hours at a time, and the marine channel will be shut all day because the crane will be sitting right in the middle,” he said. “My advice to anybody is don’t come down here [Saturday] with the intention of using the existing bridge.

“There will be times when you can, but you would be far better off going to Bay Street.”

Huggett said the precise time of the shutdowns is unknown. “We don’t know exactly,” he said. “This is one of those things where you can’t time it exactly. Nobody’s going to lift anything down here until they’re absolutely ready, all safety concerns are done.”

The current cost of the new bridge is about $105 million. The original estimate was $63 million in 2009, which rose to $92.8 million when the contract for the project was awarded to PCL Constructors Westcoast in 2012.

Watch the action on the City of Victoria's live webcam: 

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