Johnson Street Bridge builder sues City of Victoria over design, costs

The new Johnson Street Bridge is built and in use, but legal wrangling over its design and costs continue.

In a lawsuit filed in B.C. Supreme Court, PCL Constructors Westcoast Ltd., the company that built the bridge, maintains design information for the bridge “was not accurate and complete” and “contained errors, omissions and misrepresentations.”

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The suit seeking unspecified damages names the city, bridge design consultant WSP Canada Group Ltd. (formerly known as MMM Group), and Hardesty & Hanover, a sub-consultant, as defendants. The statement of claim, filed in Supreme Court in Chilliwack, says the city failed to provide design information in a timely manner, unreasonably changed the design (including specifications), and failed to pay PCL’s costs arising from changes.

Bridge project director Jonathan Huggett, representing the City of Victoria, said the lawsuit has been filed as a type of place-holder to preserve PCL’s right to sue while negotiations with the various parties over the issues continue.

“If you don’t file within two years of knowing something, you’re out of luck. So they haven’t served it on the city. There’s a difference between filing it in Supreme Court and actually serving it. It hasn’t been served on the city, but they have preserved their rights under the statute of limitations to pursue these claims,” Huggett said.

“There’s ongoing discussions with PCL, which I can’t get into for obvious reasons, but at some point we’ll reach a conclusion.

“PCL feel they have a claim. They have filed it to preserve their right to pursue that claim. The city will listen. The city will evaluate them and the city will make a recommendation to council on what should happen based on legal advice, on advice of the consultants,” Huggett said.

He said the same is true of a separate lawsuit filed against the city early in the year over design of the pier fendering, which protects the bridge from marine traffic.

WSP Canada filed a notice of civil claim on Jan. 30 seeking payment of about $300,000 for additional design work for fendering of the bridge’s north piers.

That suit, filed in B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver, says that at the direction of the city, the company provided additional professional services related to the design of fendering for which it wasn’t paid.

“It [the lawsuit] sits out there remaining at the moment because we are still in discussions with WSP about resolving the north side fendering,” Huggett said.

The lawsuits mean that for the taxpayer costs are still unknown, said Ross Crockford, director of the watchdog group johnsonstreetbridge.org. “Obviously the companies are not satisfied with the situation as it is right now and so the project is not completely over. It’s still going on and there are still outstanding issues,” Crockford said.

PCL lawyer Michael Demers did not respond to a request for comment by deadline.

Latest cost estimate for the bridge, not including fendering, is about $105 million. When citizens voted in the 2010 bridge referendum, the estimate was $63 million.

bcleverley@timescolonist.com

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