Steel for new Johnson Street Bridge expected in Victoria this afternoon

The barge carrying the first shipment of steel for the new Johnson Street bridge will arrive between 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. today at the Point Hope Shipyard.

The shipment was expected later this week, but the process of unloading the steel onto the Arctic Tuk crane barge in North Vancouver was quicker than expected, the City of Victoria said in a news release.

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Anyone who wants to watch the steel's arrival can get the best view from the west side of the bridge along the Songhees Walkway or on the east side from the Laurel Point Pathway. The current bridge will need to be lifted for the Arctic Tuk crane barge to enter the upper harbour.

The city will post updates on its Facebook page and on Twitter @cityofvictoria. The first shipment of steel includes the north and south rings, the lower counterweight and the temporary structure (false work) used to support the various components of the bridge during installation.

You can track the progress of the barge carrying the steel here:

 

The steel pieces will be off-loaded at Point Hope Shipyard starting Wednesday morning.

If all goes according to plan, Project Director Jonathan Huggett said, the marine channel under the bridge will be closed on Sunday and some of the steel will be unloaded near the east end of the bridge. Vehicles, pedestrians and cyclists will not be affected.

Another load of steel structures, including trusses and the deck that will carry vehicles, is being loaded onto a ship in China for transport to B.C.

Steel has been an issue with the bridge since early in its fabrication. In July 2014, all work stopped temporarily when inspectors found significant flaws, including defective welds. The city demanded and got improved oversight.

Huggett said he and an engineer from construction company PCL have checked the newly arrived steel over the past few days in North Vancouver, and have seen no signs of damage or flaws.

“It was a very superficial examination,” said Huggett in an interview. “But there will be a much more detailed one when it hits Victoria.”

Huggett said PCL has sent inspectors to China to scrutinize every weld during fabrication. The City of Victoria has its own inspector who performs random checks.

An electronic record of every weld in the bridge has been made, and includes the date the weld was made, the name of the welder, and the person’s qualifications.

“In fairness to PCL, they have spent a lot of effort in China assuring quality was maintained,” said Huggett.

The steel includes some of the most important pieces for the bridge’s lifting mechanism, including two giant steel rings, each one more than 15 metres in diameter and weighing more than 300 tonnes, and the counterweight.

Huggett said the shipment also includes the falsework, a temporary steel support for the bridge span during its assembly.

He said that if all goes well, the public will get a little show Sunday when falsework is unloaded from the barge.

“It will be an exciting place,” he said. “There will be this humungous crane tucked underneath the bridge and it will be lifting stuff off the barge.”

“I think people should get excited about this stuff. It’s big pieces of steel and machinery.” he said. “People look at me like I’m crazy but I just think it’s really interesting.”

The bridge is expected to cost $105.06 million and be in operation next year. When approved in 2009, it was expected to cost $63 million and be open by September 2015.

rwatts@timescolonist.com

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