Weeks of work ahead to deal with nuts and bolts of Johnson St. Bridge

Even though its major components are in place, the new Johnson Street Bridge still needs a lot of work before the first vehicles, bikes and pedestrians make their way across. March 31 is the target date for opening.

On Sunday and Monday, the bridge’s main span was lifted into position with the help of a giant crane.

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Workers are now busy bolting the bridge pieces together. That is not a fast job, said bridge project director Jonathan Huggett.

“It’s not just a few bolts, it’s a lot of bolts,” he said. “It takes a long time to do that.”

That’s just part of the work that still needs to be done.

“We also have to align that bridge because when the crane puts it down it puts it within a couple of inches, but we need it within a couple of millimetres.”

Precise balancing is required, as well, to ensure the span can be raised and lowered properly, along with testing of other systems.

The bridge was designed to be raised so that marine traffic can pass.

All of these steps are leading up to the first lift of the bridge, scheduled for Feb. 4. The lift will be a long procedure, with a lot more precision than just pressing a button and crossing fingers.

“Basically what you do is you lift it one-and-a-half degrees at a time, and then the people doing the testing run all over the bridge to see if anything’s gone wrong and then they lift it again,” Huggett said. “They keep doing that and it probably takes six or eight hours before you get it up in the air.”

He said there is a sense of anticipation among the bridge workers.

“And there’s a certain amount of nervousness, as there would be on any of these projects, about the day we lift it,” he said. “I think everybody will be happy when we’ve lifted it at least once, so we know it works.”

A huge crane called the Dynamic Beast, which has been brought over from Vancouver twice to lift the steel bridge components into place, has one more task to do.

“It’s done its duty until we dismantle the old bridge,” Huggett said. “It’ll be back probably around mid-April to the end of April.”

The old bridge’s large concrete counterweight will be jackhammered off the structure, and both its approach span and main span will be lifted by the Dynamic Beast onto a barge and taken for recycling.

jwbell@timescolonist.com

> Do you have a special memory or photo of the existing Johnson Street Bridge? We’re compiling stories and images for a special feature to mark the opening of the new bridge. Email localnews@timescolonist.com with the subject line “Bridge.”

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