Johnson Street Bridge reopens; components for new bridge installed

Ten minutes later than expected, the Johnson Street Bridge was down and operational on Monday after two wet days of construction wrapped on its replacement.

Bridge project director Jonathan Huggett said the massive crane barge known as the Dynamic Beast, which lifted the last two components of the new bridge into place over the past two days, was secured around 4:30 p.m. and the barge ropes were disconnected just before 5 p.m.

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By 5:10 p.m., the old Blue Bridge was in the down position and traffic flowed again between downtown and Vic West.

The crane barge will head back to Vancouver, returning when the old bridge is demolished.

Foot, bicycle and motor traffic was detoured to Bay Street on Sunday and most of Monday, as crews installed the last of the major components for the new Johnson Street Bridge.

Work on the project was cancelled Saturday due to wind, forcing the job to continue into Monday.

On Sunday, through heavy rains most of the early afternoon, the Dynamic Beast slowly lifted and aligned the 46-metre-long, 470-tonne bridge deck span that will make up the bulk of the new bridge.

Small crowds of onlookers dotted the waterfront for most of the process, many of them sitting in warm, dry cars in a parking lot between the Janion and Mermaid Wharf buildings.

Workers managed to do their final alignment of the massive bridge component around 5:15 p.m. Sunday.

A night crew worked under floodlights to bolt the span in place through Sunday night. There are three complex bolted connections to be made on each side of the bridge.

On Monday, crews continued to work on securing the bridge and raising and adding an insert that had to be welded between the rings and the bridge span.

By next week, the bridge is expected to be completed ahead of a test lift on Feb. 4.

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.

After the new bridge is operational, demolition of the old bridge will begin.

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Earlier story

Through unrelenting, driving rain Sunday, the crane barge known as the Dynamic Beast slowly lifted and aligned the 46-metre-long, 470-tonne bridge deck span that will make up the bulk of the new Johnson Street Bridge.

Pockets of onlookers in front of the Janion building, along the walkway in front of Mermaid Wharf and dotting the parking lot between the two buildings — some in cars to keep warm, others braving the elements — watched as the crane maneouvered the massive span. The deck started to move around 12:35 p.m., but was suspended above a barge for another 45 minutes as crews worked to add weight to one end.

“It was a minor delay while (bridge builders) PCL adjusted the balance to get the correct approach angle,” said project director Jonathan Huggett.

Huggett said the workers added concrete blocks to one end so that it would line up with the bridge’s ring plates.

The rain subsided later in the afternoon and the crane had the bridge deck nearly in position just after 4 p.m. Workers were doing their final alignment around 5:15 p.m.

Huggett said they would not rush the job, and that they would bring in lights if necessary as the sun started to set. The lights went on around 5 p.m.

A night shift was scheduled to take over and bolt the span in place under floodlights for as long as it took Sunday night.

There are three complex bolted connections to be made on each side of the bridge.

“It’s always the same, the last five per cent of the job always takes 60 per cent of the effort,” Huggett said of the time required to ensure the bridge is aligned perfectly.

Sunday’s work was always anticipated to be difficult given the sheer size and weight of the span.

“It’s really concerning. You have 470 tonnes in the air, you have to swing it 90 degrees, then back the barge with the crane through the gap using tugs and then align it — this is not an easy thing to do,” Huggett said.

Another full day of work is planned for Monday, and Huggett held out hope that they may be able to re-open the bridge before 5 p.m.

The final piece to be lifted into place on Monday is an insert that has to be welded between the rings and the bridge span.

He said if they manage to get the work done by 2 p.m. they will open the bridge at 2 p.m.

Until then the existing Johnson Street Bridge will be closed.

Pedestrians, cyclists and drivers are to expect delays and are to detour to the Bay Street Bridge.

By next week, the bridge is expected to be completed ahead of a test lift on Feb. 4.

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.

After the new bridge is operational, demolition of the old bridge will begin.

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