New Johnson Street bridge delayed till 2018, cost nears $100M

Another $2.253 million is needed soon for the Johnson Street Bridge replacement, pushing the total to $99.1 million, and even more money will be needed, the project director says in his quarterly update to Victoria council.

When approved by the previous council in 2009, the new lift bridge was forecast to cost $63 million and be operating by Sept. 30, 2015. It’s now scheduled to be completed in early 2018, Jonathan Huggett said — about 21/2 years later than expected and more than $35 million over initial estimates.

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“Some of the costs may be recoverable but, yeah, it’s not good news,” said Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps.

Final cost is all but certain to be well over $100 million.

The $2.253 million “is being requested to cover known and quantified financial commitments,” the update says, including consulting services, unforeseen ground conditions and legal fees.

Several unresolved issues remain, Huggett said, including ongoing changes to the project, costs of fendering — bumpers to prevent vessels from hitting the structure — and additional material costs.

“The total is significant and will require additional funding,” he said.

The city will try to recover some costs through mediation, agreed to when the city and the design and construction companies couldn’t agree on who would pay $10 million in cost overruns.

Huggett said problems with steel fabrication continue to plague the project.

“The fabrication of this bridge is complex and challenging and the first priority is to get it right from a quality perspective,” the report says.

“While important progress on steel fabrication has been made, we are still experiencing difficulties with fabrication of rings and trusses.”

Ross Crockford, a director with the watchdog group johnsonstreetbridge.org, noted that the report predicts additional costs. Huggett has already speculated that the fendering could cost in the range of $4 million.

Crockford said it’s a concern that fabrication of the bridge’s large steel rings is a problem and has temporarily been put on hold.

“That’s a very important part of the bridge. … That’s where the moving part of the bridge interfaces with the machinery and if you get a little error there, it becomes a much bigger error down at the far end of the lifting span,” he said.

Helps said she has confidence in the oversight put in place since Huggett took over.

“It’s the largest infrastructure project in the city’s history. I want that bridge to come here and move up and down for the next 75 years, so of course I’m worried,” she said.

“Hopefully, we’ve got the quality assurance in place that wasn’t in place before that identities these problems before they get out of hand.”

bcleverley@timescolonist.com

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