Paving the way for a new bridge; steel to go up November-December

Road work that will pave the way for the new Johnson Street Bridge is expected to close the existing bridge on Sunday, as the project heads into the homestretch.

Approaches to the bridge area between Wharf Street and Harbour Road are to be closed to motor vehicle traffic from 5 a.m. to 11 p.m. while paving takes place on Wharf Street.

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Cyclists, pedestrians and emergency vehicles will still be able to use the bridge.

The forecast for Sunday calls for a 60 per cent chance of showers and work will not go ahead if there is heavy rain, said Jonathan Huggett, the city’s project director for the new bridge. Crews can’t put down blacktop if there is deep water or puddles forming on the ground.

“A decision to start work will be made very early on Sunday morning,” Huggett said.

“If the work is cancelled due to rain, it will be postponed until Sunday, Aug. 20.”

“We’re paving the east side, so we can put the final lift of blacktop on, so that there’s nothing more to do there except demolish the old bridge once we’re ready to open.”

The city is posting warning signs to alert drivers. Cyclists and pedestrians should look for re-routing signs and be careful to follow directions from flaggers to make their way around the work zone, says a City of Victoria advisory.

Meanwhile, the first shipment of bridge steel from China is expected to arrive in Victoria during the week of Aug. 21.

The ship bringing the components — the AAL Kembla — left China at the end of July and is about halfway between Alaska and Portland.  It is expected to arrive Tuesday at Longview Port on the Columbia River. After it unloads its cargo there, the ship will set sail for either Vancouver or Victoria, Huggett said.

“We can’t be sure how long it takes them to unload, but we can reasonably assume the ship will arrive in B.C. waters on Aug. 19,” he said.

“The preference is for the ship to unload to a barge to arrive at Ogden Point. But depending on cruise ship timing, if the cruise ships are blocking us, then we will go to the Fraser docks in Surrey and do the transfer onto a barge in Surrey. It means we’ll probably see the steel come into Victoria Harbour during the week of Aug. 21 to 25.”

The new bridge, like the old one, is designed to lift so that taller vessels can pass.

The first shipment includes the most important pieces of the bridge, including two big rings that are part of the lifting mechanism.

Each one is 15.2 metres in diameter and weighs 300 tonnes. The shipment also includes the lower counterweight and falsework, which will be installed temporarily in the pier to hold the rings up during construction.

The rings will be taken to Point Hope shipyard to be washed, inspected and painted as required, said Huggett.

On Aug. 22, the span support structure — smaller pieces in a big shipping container — will arrive in Victoria from Tianjin, China. United Engineering has been hired to attach the span support structure to the rings.

Another shipment with the bascule leaf, or span, will leave Shanghai on Aug. 25, Huggett said.

“That is currently being painted in China and will very shortly be loaded on a barge, sent down the Yangtze River to Shanghai and will arrive in Victoria towards the end of September,” he said.

During November and December, all the components will be fixed together in place.

“By December, I expect the public will see what looks like close to a finished bridge. We then have to go through an extensive period of testing and alignment,” Huggett said.

“We’re still on track to open to traffic by March 2018.”

The new bridge has a projected total cost of $105.06 million, which includes $62.9 million for construction, with the rest for such things as project management, engineering, communications and insurance.

It will be painted light grey and be lit in blue at night.

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