Friday was a sad day for us. At around 1:00 pm, a giant crane removed the 250-tonne railway span of the old Johnson Street Bridge — commencing the demolition of the only parallel-spanned Strauss bascule bridge in the world, and permanently severing the Esquimalt & Nanaimo Railway’s 123-year connection to downtown.
Around 80 people braved miserable weather to see workers detach the rail span from its counterweight, and then watch the largest maritime crane in western Canada slowly lower the span onto a barge, which will ferry it up Victoria’s harbour on Sunday for dismantling.
As you can tell from coverage on CHEK and CTV, and in the Times Colonist and Victoria News, those gathered at the site had a range of emotions and opinions about the event. The National Post also had a comprehensive story about the project on Friday, and on Thursday CBC Radio ran a fine feature documentary about the history of the old bridge, which you can listen to here.
Emotions aside, Friday’s removal of the rail span also raises some substantive issues.
How much did the work cost? The June 2010 Advicas estimate pegged the job at $1 million, but Ruskin Construction’s bid came in at $1.845 million, according to this memo. The final relocation of the span also had to be delayed until Sunday, due to weather, which will add to the cost: the crane barge reportedly costs $45,000 per day.
Will the public and/or media be allowed to see the dismantling of the rail span? The City repeatedly asserted that the old bridge couldn’t be repaired in part because it suffered from pervasive pack rust. Access to the dismantling would show what 88 years over Victoria’s Inner Harbour really did to the bridge — and might also provide useful information for maintenance of the new one.
How will the old steel be recycled? According to one expert we contacted, the embodied energy of the steel will be lost if it’s melted down. If the steel ends up getting shipped to the other side of the world, that also diminishes the City’s claim that the replacement project will reduce greenhouse gases.
We will continue to monitor the project, and ask pertinent questions.
UPDATE (Monday, February 27): According to an interview with the City’s bridge project manager this morning on CFAX, the rail span is at Point Hope Shipyard, and will be dismantled over the next two weeks before the steel is shipped to Tacoma for recycling. It is not clear whether the public will have access to the site, as the span now belongs to the contractor. According to this story — about the span jokingly being offered for sale on Used Victoria — the steel is worth approximately $45,000.
Video – Rail Span Removal