Troubled bridge over waters

September 25, 2009 at 12:10 am 2 comments

I attended tonight’s special Council meeting on choosing one of the three options for replacing the Johnson Street Bridge.

The event was anti-climactic as only a few hours before, word came that the anticipated funding was not coming.

Fortin vowed to plow ahead regardless, saying any delay would be costly, using the example of the Burnside Gorge Community Centre.

Councillor Hunter highlighted the maintenance problems with the current bridge, mentioning in particular the “obsolete” electric motors. Folks, those motors were presumably built the year Lenin died. The fact that they have lasted so long is an engineering miracle. They have paid for themselves many times over and the fact that we are debating the hardy motors’ usefulness in the year 2009 is astounding. I do agree they need to be replaced. Now, I don’t know if the motors currently powering the bridge are special but a quick Internet search brings up the fact that ordinary heavy-duty 100 h.p. motors cost well under $10,000. It’s comparable to scrapping a car because the old oil filter is dirty.

Hunter also said that the full $63 million cost of the bridge could be paid for without a tax increase, supposedly because of the City’s borrowing power. But it should be noted that this would come at a profound cost. How would this affect other needed projects like the Crystal Pool or new Central Library? Kudos to Councillor Madoff for pointing out that borrowing will indeed impact other needs.

Councillor Young said the City should enlist an engineer with an interest in preserving the bridge to report to Council. This brought an angry rebuke from Mayor Fortin that City of Victoria engineers are unbiased. However, this will not quell discussion that the current dismal state of the bridge is in part due to deferred maintenance. Was Engineering’s efforts to properly maintain the JSB hamstrung by years of stingy City Councils? Or has Engineering been seduced by the once-in-a-career opportunity to build a true world-class bridge?

Councillor Chandler deserves praise for criticizing the poor quality of the bridge renderings, especially the ones on the web. It was only at tonight’s meeting that a more diverse range of drawings were presented. Still, as they appear on the Internet, the renderings are too small to be of much use.

In the end, Council sided with the Community Advisory Committee and chose the Rolling Bascule version (version 2). I concur. It is the design most sympathetic to the Upper Harbour’s industrial aesthetic.

Entry filed under: architecture, City Hall, urban design, Victoria's economy.

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2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Susan Jones  |  September 25, 2009 at 6:24 am

    Troubled indeed! I wonder why funds were not allocated by the Province to the Bridge (either repair or replacement).

  • 2. robertrandall  |  September 25, 2009 at 9:43 am

    The Province said no to the request because it was way too large and the construction timeline was unreasonable. Despite what the Mayor said it wasn’t really “shovel ready” like the Feds wanted, as the preliminary work wasn’t done at the time the request was made.


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