Johnson Street Bridge History
Quoted from various sources:
City of Victoria website: The Johnson Street Bridge was designed under the direction of Mr. F. M. Preston, City Engineer in 1920. This is a bascule-type bridge in which one end rises while a counterweight lowers on the opposite end. The Johnson Street Bridge has two separate bascules, the railway section and the highway section. The Strauss Bascule Company Limited who held the patents on the design prepared the design for the bascule spans and the operating machinery. Joseph Strauss later went on to design the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. The superstructure of the bridge was fabricated in Walkerville, Ontario and contains 100 tons of steel. The City of Victoria Engineering Department built the sub-structure of the bridge. It required 10,000 cubic yards of concrete. The main opening span is 148 feet in length and when in the open position is balanced over a 45-foot fixed span. The eastern approach is spanned by a 110-foot fixed girder while the western approach has a 73-foot fixed girder.
The counterweight block on the highway span is a hollow concrete structure and contains a number of smaller concrete weights and tips the scale at over 780 tons. It balances the 350-ton opening span. The linkage is moved by two large racks which are driven by two 75-horsepower electric motors.
The Johnson Street Bridge was completed at a cost of $918,000 and opened in January of 1924. The original deck of the bridge was constructed of wood timbers. Besides being slippery in wet weather, the timber absorbed water and became heavier which affected the balance and placed excessive loads on the opening machinery. The timbers were replaced by an open steel grid decking of constant weight in 1966.
In 1979, extensive repairs were made to the superstructure, which had become severely corroded. The blue paint now on the bridge was selected because the oxides of its pigment are the same colour as the paint so that little fading of the colour occurs.
In 1995, abnormally high temperatures caused the steel decking to expand to the point the bridge would not open or close properly. This necessitated the removal of about 1-inch of the decking.
1998 Heavy Vehicle Limits
Corroded bridge off limits to heavy vehicles; [Final Edition]
Bill Cleverley. Times – Colonist. Victoria, B.C.: Sep 11, 1998. pg. A.1.FRO
Heavy vehicles are being banned from the Johnson Street Bridge after an inspection found the 75-year-old Victoria landmark needs at least $900,000 in repairs.
The salt water environment is corroding steel structural supports, and until repairs are made, vehicles with a gross vehicle weight above 17,500 kilograms won’t be allowed on the bridge.
Early estimates of what needs to be done could just be the beginning.
“As I understand it, the way that it’s put together, there may be some areas that they’ll find problems they hadn’t anticipated,” Coun. Geoff Young said. “It’s been suggested there may be some (areas) where it’s pretty weak, where it’s held together by paint. I hope that’s not the case everywhere.”
Such repairs are needed about every 20 years, said Wayne Carlow acting manager of Victoria’s streets division. The rusting usually occurs in areas that are difficult to paint and collect a lot of dirt and moisture.
The new weight limit won’t effect that much traffic. Prohibited vehicles make up less than five per cent of the 30,000 vehicles a day using the Blue Bridge.
The 17,500 kilogram limit means city buses, at 17,200 kilograms, can continue using the bridge but tandem-axle highway buses, dump trucks and semi-trailers will not.
Repairs will take about nine months to complete and until that time, vehicles over the weight limit will be diverted to the Point Ellice Bridge via Bay Street.
Young said repairs are expected to extend the life of the Blue Bridge another 20 years. At that point, the council of the day will face an interesting decision, Young said, because there are only a few similar bascule bridges operating. Bascule bridges are drawbridges that are raised and lowered using counterweights.
In the meantime, city councillors won’t even decide whether to repaint the bridge until after repairs are complete because of high costs. Workers’ Compensation regulations, coupled with matting and tarping necessary to meet environmental requirements put just a paint job at an estimated $1 million, Young said.
Blue bridge to get $1-million facelift; [Final Edition]
Jeff Bell. Times – Colonist. Victoria, B.C.: Apr 3, 1999. pg. B.2
The 75-year-old Johnson Street Bridge is set for a million- dollar refit that will begin within a few weeks.
The project will last about three months. During that time only one lane outbound from Victoria to Vic West and Esquimalt will be open to vehicle traffic, said Clive Timms, Victoria’s manager of transportation and development.
At some point during the project the bridge will be shut down for an entire week so that repairs can be done on the main span. It will be in the “up” position during the full closure.
Timms said the repairs will give the bridge several more decades of useful life, and will even help head off the need for repainting – - a job that carries a million-dollar price tag of its own.
Some paint touch-ups will be part of the current project, but the entire bridge will need another coat of its trademark light-blue paint within the next two years, Timms said.
The refit needs formal approval at next week’s meeting of Victoria council, but council’s committee of the whole has agreed to award the job to Formula Pile & Bridge Contractors Ltd.
The Prince George-based company was the lowest of six bidders at $1,007,585.83. The company maintains a Victoria office and uses “a significant number of local staff,” Timms said.
Pedestrians and cyclists walking their bikes will be able to cross the bridge during most of the repair period, Timms said. The only exception will be during the week it is fully closed, and city staff is negotiating for pedestrian use of the adjacent railway bridge during that time.
Work on the blue bridge includes replacement of corroded steel beams that support the concrete decks on either side of the bridge.
“We have to replace those entire deck sections,” Timms said.
Several steel members on the main “lift” span also will be replaced.
“That’s where we have to do the complete closure with the bridge fully up for a week .”
Councillors will also be considering $900,000 in seismic upgrading to the Point Ellice Bridge within the next several weeks, Timms said. Work on the first phase of the Point Ellice Bridge upgrade could overlap the work on the Johnson Street Bridge since Point Ellice crews will be working below the bridge from a barge, and won’t be affecting traffic.
Timms said he hopes that the first phase of the Point Ellice Bridge project will be completed this year, with the second phase to be done during the first half of 2000.
On April 23rd, Victoria City Council gave approval-in-principle to replace the 85 year old Johnson Street Bridge.
“Today’s decision is an exciting first step that will significantly improve a vital transportation corridor to downtown,” said Mayor Dean Fortin. “There is a tremendous amount of work ahead and we will continue to make thoughtful, prudent decisions as we proceed through this process.”
After a detailed presentation by City Engineering staff and Delcan engineering consultants, and lengthy discussion by Council, an approval-in-principle to proceed with replacement of the bridge was made. Staff will now complete detailed transportation designs to identify opportunities to improve approaches to the bridge, increase opportunities for pedestrian, cycle and rail traffic, and develop costing models to be “shovel ready” for federal and provincial infrastructure grant opportunities.
On April 2, the preliminary results of an overall condition assessment of the Johnson Street Bridge were presented to Council, signalling the urgent need to invest in rehabilitation or replacement of the aging bridge.
The Johnson Street Bridge was designed under the direction of Mr. F. M. Preston, a City engineer in 1920 and opened to the public in January 1924. Nicknamed “Big Blue” due to its distinctive blue paint colour, it is a Bascule-type bridge in which one end rises while a counter weight lowers on the opposite end. Over 30,000 vehicles travel over the bridge each day as well as thousands of pedestrian and cycling commuters.
On July 9th, Council asked staff to proceed with pursuing a design-build model and developing terms of reference for an advisory panel of community representatives to participate in the Johnson Street Bridge Replacement Project. A new website is being developed specifically to the support project.