‘No further delays’: New Johnson Street Bridge to open March 31 with a party

Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps says the March 31 opening put forward for the new Johnson Street Bridge can now be considered cast in stone.

“The headline news: No further delays,” Helps said. “We’ve heard delay after delay after delay and we’re finally putting a stake in the ground, or in the water, and saying ‘No more delays, the bridge is opening on March 31.’

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“It’s a relief.”

The bridge was initially scheduled to be completed by Sept. 30, 2015, at an estimated cost of $63 million, but the project ran into delays when the first batch of steel was found to be below designer specifications and rejected.

A further delay in fabrication pushed the opening back again. The cost has risen, too, and is now estimated at $105 million.

Helps said there will be a public celebration on March 31 to herald the completed project.

“At noon there will be a ribbon cutting and an opportunity for the community to cross the new bridge, to walk across or to cycle across,” she said. “It won’t open to car traffic until 5 p.m., when the celebration’s done.”

There will be a community picnic on both of the bridges — which Helps has been calling Old Blue and New Blue — meaning no traffic on either structure between noon and 5 p.m. Helps said there will be picnic tables set up, with food trucks, bands and craft stations for children completing the scene.

The public has been eager for some sort of gathering when the new bridge opens, Helps said.

“We’ve had lots of requests from the community asking ‘Can we please do something special?’, particularly to celebrate the closing of the old bridge,” she said. “This event is in response to the community.”

The new bridge will be painted a whitish-grey colour and lit with blue lights at night.

Project director Jonathan Huggett said the weather will determine whether the painting will be completed in time for opening day.

Coming up for the bridge is extensive final testing, which could happen Monday or Tuesday. Huggett said a safety audit will come later in the week.

Demolition work on the old Johnson Street Bridge will take about three months. The south walkway on the new bridge will be closed during that time.

jwbell@timescolonist.com

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