Johnson Street Bridge completion delayed three more months

The Johnson Street Bridge opening has been delayed by a further three months, to March 30, 2018.

Victoria councillors learned Thursday that problems with metal fabrication in China, where the steel is being produced, led to the change.

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The bridge was initially scheduled to be completed by Sept. 30, 2015.

“It’s been frustrating from the get-go,” said Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps.

The project has become “a big mess,” she said.

“Council was not given good advice, we heard that very clearly [at Thursday’s committee of the whole meeting]. We had professionals here, and we didn’t get good advice.”

Helps said she is hesitant to trust that the new deadline will be met.

“How do we even believe that it’s going to be here by [March 30], because it was supposed to be here by Dec. 28 and before that it was supposed to be here by July.”

The bridge’s cost was estimated at $63 million in 2009 and grew to $92.8 million when the contract to build it was awarded to PCL Constructors Westcoast in 2012. Construction began in May 2013, and the price is now up to $105 million.

Any additional costs stemming from the delay have yet to be determined, Helps said, adding that she doesn’t expect the city to have to put up any more money.

“The fault for the delay is firmly in [the contractor’s] hands,” Helps said. “I think everyone would agree to that.”

Jonathan Huggett, the city’s project director for the bridge, said PCL is responsible to complete the bridge to the desired specifications on time.

“So as far as we’re concerned, this is PCL’s problem.”

He said the city will seek compensation from PCL for costs such as having to send city staff to China to check the steel.

PCL said only that all of the necessary information about the bridge was in the report submitted to council and available to the public.

A big concern for PCL was getting the required pre-assembly of the bridge components to fit perfectly, Huggett said.

“Just putting this structure together has taken PCL a lot longer than they anticipated, and that’s been the delay.”

Huggett said none of the steel will be accepted for delivery by the city unless it is deemed to be exactly as ordered. There are concerns with some of the steel pieces that have been completed showing signs of corrosion, he said. “We’re not going to accept substandard work.”

Helps said there are critical dates coming up for transport of the bridge’s steel components.

She said the shipping will be done in two portions, with the first set to begin the trip to Canada on July 20.

“If that shipment doesn’t leave China July 20, I expect PCL to be back here giving us more bad news,” she said.

Helps said the city has already been in mediation with PCL, getting $2.8 million from about $27 million in delay claims.

“We’ll wait and see how bad it is, but I think we can probably expect at least another mediation,” she said. “But we’ll wait for our lawyers to advise us.”

Helps said she doesn’t think that the delay will threaten up to $37.5 million in federal government funding for the bridge.

“The federal government has been very flexible,” she said. “Every time we get a note of delay from PCL, I write a letter to the federal government.”

Huggett said the city might have avoided its predicament if there were a better definition of the project requirements in place before a contract was agreed to.

“The design when contracted was no more than 10 per cent complete, so a lot of these issues were therefore not fleshed out, and, of course, as the project unfolds, they’ve got to be dealt with at some point,” he said.

“I think a lot of the issues were not thought through when it went to contract.”

jwbell@timescolonist.com

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