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City Reveals PCL Bridge Deal


This week, the City of Victoria revealed some of the details in its new contract with PCL Contractors Westcoast (PCL) to build a new Johnson Street Bridge. The good news is that the $63.2-million deal is within the City’s budget, and PCL has fixed several problems with the bridge’s experimental lift mechanism. But a lot of steel has been replaced with concrete, and the design is “boxier” than before. The price tag also doesn’t cover unforeseen geotechnical issues, changing steel quantities, utility relocations, some redesign costs or a new retaining wall — and the steel bascule span will be built abroad, diminishing claims that the project will generate hundreds of local jobs. […]

An Open Letter to Victoria Council: Bridge Contract Must Satisfy Referendum Promises

Pay attention, folks: this is the biggest contract in the City's history

On Monday, December 31, Victoria Council will hold a closed meeting to discuss a contract to build the new Johnson Street Bridge. Council must review this document in detail, and not be pressured to approve it without absolute certainty that it meets all of the City’s needs, and satisfies the promises that the City made leading up to the 2010 referendum to borrow $49.2 million. In particular, the City promised that there would be a “0% tax increase” associated with the bridge, and that it would be built to a maximum (8.5) seismic standard. It promised that the bridge would have a 100-year design life — a promise that only will be fulfilled if the contractor resolves previously-identified problems with the bridge’s unique lift mechanism, such its exposed machinery, and uncertain operation in unusual weather conditions. The City also promised that the bridge would be economical to maintain, and that the project budget would include amenities such as pathways, and public spaces. Council must ensure that the contract with PCL satisfies the promises that the City made to the public in 2010. […]

We’re Paying Too Much for a New Bridge


The City of Victoria recently altered its Request For Proposals to allow the bidding companies take over design of the new Johnson Street Bridge. To meet the terms of the 2010 referendum, they will have to build a bridge “generally in accordance” with plans on file at City Hall. But is building a facsimile of the original design a good idea? Maybe not. Judging by examples from Florida, if the three companies were given complete freedom to design a bridge that met the City’s transportation needs, they could build it for $45 to $55 million — 20 to 30 percent less than the $66 million budgeted for constructing the experimental Johnson Street Bridge. […]

Companies Can Redesign Bridge, for an Uncertain Price

The bridge's appearance, function, and cost are shifting

Recently the City of Victoria issued a revised Request For Proposals (RFP) to the three companies bidding on the project — and the new document increases risks to taxpayers, and may produce a bridge different from the one shown in pre-referendum advertising. In Section 4.3(c) of the original RFP, the companies had to submit a fixed price to build the bridge. Now they may submit a “not to exceed” price, which the City can try to negotiate down to a fixed price later on. In Section 4.3(a) of the original RFP, the companies could only propose “optimizations” to the bridge architecture. Now, a new provision — Section 4.5, Design Build — lets the companies assume “technical design responsibility for the complete project,” and have their own engineers design the bridge. […]

What is the JSB Steering Committee?

A panel of staff and consultants make key decisions about the bridge project, without telling councillors, or you

If there’s any upside to the FOCUS affair, it’s that reporters are starting to pay attention to the Johnson Street Bridge Steering Committee — a panel of City staff that makes crucial decisions about the bridge project, yet repeatedly neglects to report them to our elected councillors. On September 12, 2011, the Steering Committee knew the bridge’s “wheel” design had to change completely, and that budget estimates were being revised. But they didn’t tell councillors for another six months. […]

An Open Letter re: Timing and Bridge Bid Information

Council must not be forced to make a last-minute decision with incomplete information

On September 20, Victoria councillors will receive an update on the Johnson Street Bridge project. A staff report suggests that most or nearly all of the information about the forthcoming bids from the three companies vying to build the bridge will be seen by only a few senior City managers, and project consultants. This is a problem: the duty to ensure that the long-term interests of the public are served by this bridge ultimately falls to our elected officials, who must have complete information, and time to make a considered decision. We sent an open letter to our councillors to ensure that they make the decision, not City staff. […]

Questioning the Mechanics of a (Very) New Bridge, Part 2


Back in March, Victorians learned that the always-open pathway through the big wheels of the new Johnson Street Bridge was cut from the design. However, it seems many are still unaware that the architects had to radically change the bridge’s entire lift mechanism after the 2010 referendum — and that the unusual mechanism will likely increase the project’s final cost and future maintenance. Are we buying a piece of transportation infrastructure, or a giant moving sculpture? […]

Victoria Climbs Toward a $100-Million Bridge

The higher the climb, the harder the fall

The City has extended the deadline for construction bids on the new bridge to September 10, so the companies have more time to shave their prices. It’s good that the City is trying to reduce the impact on taxpayers. But the extension compresses the amount of time council will have to sign a contract or look for alternatives. It also suggests that some or all of the bids are still above the City’s “affordability ceiling” of $66.1 million for construction — adding more fuel to the fire of recent concern that the project cost is about to increase again. […]

Bridge Procurement Reaches Critical Stage

Now the negotiating begins — and councillors aren't allowed to the meetings

Monday, June 25, 2012 — Today at 12 noon, the three companies in the running to build the new Johnson Street Bridge submitted their “indicative prices” to Victoria’s City Hall, providing the first independent estimates of how much the project will really cost. And if the numbers are far higher than the City expects, Victoria’s councillors could change the project, or scrap it altogether. […]