March 31 opening for new bridge won’t mean end of work: director

The new Johnson Street Bridge remains on track for a March 31 opening, but don’t expect all of the final touches to be done until a few months afterward.

Project director Jonathan Huggett said there could be lane closures from time to time even after vehicles, cyclists and pedestrians start using the bridge.

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“People shouldn’t get frustrated and say: ‘Oh I thought this bridge was finished at the end of March,’ ” he said. “It’s an ongoing construction site until the end of June.”

That is in large part because the existing bridge still has to be taken down, Huggett said.

Other measures could also affect the lanes, he said.

“One of the big jobs we’ve got to do is paint it,” Huggett said. “Of course, you can’t just put the paint on any time, so the weather’s a bit of a problem on that.

“It’s March, if the weather turns decent, we’ll get it done.”

He said most of the whitish-grey paint will be applied with rollers. “Nobody’s excited about opening a brand-new bridge with the paint still in a mess, but what can you do?” Huggett said.

Blue lights will shine on the bridge at night as planned, but they will be turned off occasionally out of concern that brightness could affect salmon in the area. An environmental report will govern that, Huggett said.

The remaining to-do list includes a general tidying of the site, he said.

“You can’t believe after four or five years how much it takes to clean something like this up.”

Still, so far as the construction of the bridge goes, “a lot of the pressure’s off,” Huggett said. “We’ve seen it go up and down, so it actually works.”

A few important steps are coming up in the next few weeks. “Somewhere around the 12th or 13th, we’ve got extensive final-acceptance testing. That’s when you go down and you push all the buttons,” Huggett said.

Engineers from bridge subconsultant Hardesty & Hanover will be here from New York for the testing process, Huggett said.

Following that will come an overall safety audit of the bridge around March 17 to be certain everything is as it should be.

Huggett said that the bridge’s north walkway will be the only one usable at first. “You can’t finish the pedestrian walkway on the south side until you demolish the old bridge.”

The cost of the bridge project has gone up over the years, with an original estimate of $63 million in 2009 and a current cost of $105 million.

Plans for a grand opening of the new bridge are in the works, City of Victoria spokesman Bill Eisenhauer said. An announcement will be made once activities are finalized, he said.

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