Johnson Street Bridge gets an early test lift

A painstakingly slow test-lift of the new Johnson Street Bridge scheduled for Tuesday had a trial run under the dark of night Monday. At 10:35 p.m., the Johnson Street Bridge webcam showed the new bridge at about a 15-degree angle, and still rising. At 10:55 p.m., it was at about 20 degrees and going down. If the weather cooperates, the official test lift will go ahead mid-morning on Tuesday.

“We will lift the thing about 1.5 degrees at a time, and then there’s a lot of engineers down there looking at every component — how the various gears are interfacing and are we still in the centre of the tracks,” project director Jonathan Huggett said earlier Monday. To get to a full lift, about a 77-degree angle, could take about six hours, Huggett said. To do this, winds can’t exceed 50 kilometres per hour.

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Environment Canada has forecast a 40 per cent chance of showers Tuesday with no mention of high winds.

Work to install the last of the major components to the new Johnson Street Bridge was delayed by a day on Jan. 27 due to high winds.

Another delay occurred Sunday. “Minor problems securing a closing panel on the upper counterweight delayed installing the grout until Monday,” said Huggett. Grout takes 24 hours to set.

Experts in every aspect of the bridge’s workings will be on hand during the test lift.

“As it opens, we’ll have someone look at the hydraulic system and guys making sure the wheels are staying on track and we’ll have other people looking for unforeseen obstacles — all these kinds of checks will be going on in detail,” Huggett said.

He expects small problems will be detected and fixed along the way. He is hoping no major problems will be found.

The 46-metre-long bridge alone weighs 470 tonnes. When counterweights, wheels, ballast and other components are considered, it weighs as much as 2,500 tonnes, Huggett said. “It’s a sizable piece.”

The bridge is bolted into place and sitting on the lifting machinery. On Sunday night, the final temporary support on the west end for the lower counterweight was removed.

The bridge now has no temporary supports, Huggett said.

While the new bridge will look complete, it is not expected to be open to the public until the end of March to allow for testing of its mechanical, electrical and hydraulic systems.

Mayor Lisa Helps has said it’s important to note that when the bridge opens at the end of March, the old bridge will have to be demolished and improvements to public areas and some of the walkway links will have to be completed.

The old bridge will be open to vehicle and foot traffic Tuesday but the lift of the new bridge could affect marine traffic.

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