Johnson Street Bridge

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Johnson Street Bridge
Locale Victoria, British Columbia
Design Bascule
Longest span 45 m (148 ft)
Opened January 1924

Coordinates: 48°25′41″N 123°22′18″W / 48.428061°N 123.371594°W / 48.428061; -123.371594

VIA Rail Dayliner crossing the Johnson Street Bridge after completing a round trip Victoria - Courtenay, 2008 May 13.
VIA Rail Dayliner crossing the Johnson Street Bridge after completing a round trip Victoria - Courtenay, 2008 May 13.

The Johnson Street Bridge is a bascule bridge that spans the harbour of Victoria, British Columbia. It is commonly referred to as the "Blue Bridge" because of its distinctive blue colour.

The bascule spans were designed by the Strauss Bascule Company Limited and were fabricated in Ontario. The sub-structure was built by the City of Victoria Engineering Department and required 9,144 cubic metres (11,960 cubic yards) of concrete. The bridge was completed in January 1924 at a cost of C$918,000. The bridge originally had street car rails running down the center of the road span, but they were never used, and were removed a few years later. The original wood deck was replaced by a steel grid in 1966 and the steel structure was repainted in 1979 as part of an extensive renovation.

The bridge had two opening spans of 45 m (148 ft) that operate independently, a three-lane highway span of 350 tonnes and a railway span of 150 tons. The approaches are fixed girders, the east is 34 m (112 ft) and the west is 22 m (72 ft). The counterweights are made of hollow concrete and total 780 tonnes. Daily traffic in 2010 is 30,000 trips a day at peak usage, of which 4000 are pedestrians, 3000 cyclists, and 23,000 vehicles. Until 2011, the rail span for the E&N was used twice a day by the Via Rail Dayliner, for trips up the island towards Duncan, Nanaimo and Courtenay. The rail span and counterweight have now been removed.


Johnson Street Bridge archive photo

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 counter weight lowers on the opposite end. When it was built, the Johnson Street Bridge had two separate Bascules, the Railway section and the Highway section. The Railway span was removed in 2012 after it was deemed to be in such a poor state of repair that it posed a danger to the pedestrians and cyclists who were using it and any marine traffic passing below it. The railway had not been used by a train since the Via Rail passenger service was suspended in 2010.

The Strauss Bascule Company Limited, which 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 7,600 cubic metres (10,000 cubic yards) of concrete. The main opening span is
45 metres (148 ft) in length and when in the open position is balanced over a 14-metre (45 ft) fixed span. The eastern approach is spanned by a 34-metre (110 ft) fixed girder while the western approach has a 22-metre (73 ft) 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 56-kilowatt (75 hp) electric motors.

The Johnson Street Bridge was completed at a cost of $918,000 and opened in January 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. Originally painted black, the bridge was painted blue in 1976. The paint was selected because the oxides of its pigment are the same colour as the paint so that little fading of the colour occurs.[1] The City of Victoria had used the same blue paint for the lamp standards throughout the city.

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 25 mm (1 in) of the decking.


On April 2, 2009, the preliminary results of an overall condition assessment of the Johnson Street Bridge[2] were presented to Victoria City Council; Council gave approval-in-principle on April 23, 2009 to replace the 85-year-old Johnson Street Bridge.

The Delcan Report concluded:

Based on the findings of this study either a repair or a replacement option could be justified from a cost perspective. There is, however, in our opinion a need to address the seismic vulnerability of the existing bridge given that it is heavily trafficked and located in the most seismically active city in Canada. In this report we have suggested that this vulnerability should be addressed within 2 to 3 years by implementing a seismic retrofit or by replacing the bridge.[3]

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.

“Today’s decision is an exciting first step that will significantly improve a vital transportation corridor to downtown. There is a tremendous amount of work ahead and we will continue to make thoughtful, prudent decisions as we proceed through this process.” Mayor Dean Fortin.

On July 9, 2009, Victoria City 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.

On July 24, 2009, seven residents of Greater Victoria were named to the Johnson Street Bridge Citizen Advisory Committee[4] and City Council awarded the Owner's Representative contract to MMM Group Limited to project manage the replacement of the 85-year-old bascule bridge.

On September 8, 2009, Victoria City Council was presented with the 3 design concepts[5] for the new Johnson Street Bridge.

On September 24, 2009, City Council decided on the Rolling Bascule Bridge[6] as the design for the new Johnson Street Bridge after reviewing public feedback, recommendations from the Citizens Advisory Committee and advice from a staff technical committee.

On November 19, 2009, City Council voted in favour of Alternate Approval Process to require a counter petition. (Vote, out of 8: 4 in favour, 2 against, 2 absent) If more than 10% of residents (6400) oppose the borrowing bylaw, then the issue goes to a referendum.

During October and November 2009, Province of BC declined to contribute to funding bridge project. A few weeks later federal government approved $21 million grant for replacement project. Federal funding came from Build Canada Fund.

In December 2009, Counter Petition was launched to force the city to go to a referendum to obtain approval for funding bylaw No.09-057 to borrow $42 million towards the total of $63, with $21 million from federal funding. Text of petition reads: "I, the undersigned elector residing or owning real property within the City of Victoria, do hereby present my name on this elector response form for the purpose of opposing the Council of the City of Victoria adopting Loan Authorization (Johnson Street Bridge) Bylaw No. 09-057 without first obtaining the assent of the electors by a vote (referendum)." Signatures were to be gathered by January 4, 2010.

On January 4, 2010, Organizers presented successful counter petition to City Hall, with 9872 valid Victoria elector signatures. Borrowing bylaw for bridge project must now go to a referendum.

In February 2010, The city commissioned MMM Group to prepare full Class C report on comparable options for replacement and rehabilitation.

On May 27, 2010, Results of Ipsos Reid survey.[7] For residents, factors in bridge decisions rank (in order of importance) a dedicated pedestrian walkway, lifespan of the bridge, cost, dedicated bike lanes, accessibility for other users (wheelchairs, scooters, strollers, visually impaired), and safety, above heritage value and having a rail crossing.[8] Business owners did not see a benefit from one option over the other, but concerns over cost and construction issues including potential closures were top of mind. [9]

On June 11, 2010, Banjar Management Economic Impact Assessment identified economic benefits to "range between $48 million and $54 million for the rehabilitation alternative and $47 to $53 million for replacement of the Bridge over the four to five years required for project delivery." [10] Negative economic impact was assessed as follows: DOWNTOWN VICTORIA BUSINESS IMPAIRMENT Full closure $10.3 million One lane open $5.1 million Two lanes open $2.6 million VEHICLE DIVERSION TRAVEL TIME COSTS Full closure $1.6 million One lane open $1.0 million Two lanes open $0.4 million BUS DIVERSION COSTS ONE YEAR TWO YEAR Transit Operation Cost $0.5 million $1.0 million Transit passenger travel time $1.0 million $2.0 million

On June 14, 2010, MMM Engineering Group made a presentation[11] to council of their report[12] on the rehabilitation and replacement options, including updated cost estimates,[13] revised timelines,[14] economic impact study[15] of potential closures and options for different levels of seismic upgrading (6.5m vs 8.5m). Refurbishment, with seismic upgrades to 8.5 as recommended[16] in the report, and a third, new span to be a multi-use bridge, is estimated to cost 103 million. Replacement of the existing structure, with accompanying work on the approaches to the bridge, with priority given to a mix of users including vehicles, pedestrians and cyclists, is estimated to cost 89 million. The MMM Group study was also peer-reviewed[17] by Stantec Consulting Ltd, Victoria.[18][19] Stantec found the proposed bridge "technically appropriate", and that the projected costs for both rehab and replacement were "considered reasonable."[20]

On June 17, City Council decided to ask other municipalities to fund the costs of maintaining the rail link. This would reduce the cost of refurbishment by $23 million, and replacement by $12 million. Long-term planning for commuter rail to the Western communities will be affected if the rail line no longer crosses into downtown Victoria, and instead terminates in Victoria West. The deadline for obtaining this funding was August 12, 2010. The City Council also voted on this date to update the bridge to a seismic standard of 8.5 magnitude.[21]

On July 8, 2010, Information packages[22] and numbered surveys were sent out to all Victoria residents. The city invited input up to August 12 deadline.

In July 2010, City of Victoria hosted 2 open houses and bridge tours to provide information on the projects to residents. City staff, engineers, and project managers were present to answer questions.[23]

On August 12, 2010, Victoria city councillors voted to replace the Johnson Street Bridge, rather than refurbish the existing bridge. All councillors except for Coun. Geoff Young supported replacing the bridge. The vote was done after tours, open houses, and surveys were done to inform residents of Victoria of the options. An Ipsos-Reid survey found that 64% and 68% of residents and businesses respectively preferred replacing the bridge with a new one. A referendum would still be held on November 20, 2010 to ask residents if they support the city borrowing money for the cost of the new bridge.[24]

On November 20, 2010 the referendum to support the city borrowing money for the cost of the new bridge passed 61% to 39%. The new bridge was scheduled to be completed in 2015, at which time the old bridge will be removed.

On March 31, 2011, the bridge was closed to rail traffic after inspections found corrosion on key structural supports. The Victoria – Courtenay train, which has been suspended since March 19, needs to set up a temporary stop.[25]

The project was delayed about 6 months while the communications cable was moved further north out of the way of the new span. On February 10, 2012 demolition started on the rail side of the trestle with bracing the bridge in key areas and starting work on taking down the counter weight for the rail side.

A City of Victoria website is supporting the project[26] and Ross Crockford, Yule Heibel, and Mat Wright are running a preservationist web site.[27] There is also a local group "The JSB Group",[28] made up of downtown residents and business owners that support the new Johnson Street Bridge.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Heritage Assessment, 2009" (PDF). Retrieved November 20, 2011. 
  2. ^ "overall condition assessment of the Johnson Street Bridge" (PDF). Retrieved November 20, 2011. 
  3. ^ "Johnson Street Brisge Condition Assessment Report" (PDF). Retrieved 2014-03-07. 
  4. ^ "Johnson Street Bridge Citizen Advisory Committee". Retrieved November 20, 2011. 
  5. ^ "3 design concepts". Retrieved November 20, 2011. 
  6. ^ "Rolling Bascule Bridge". Retrieved November 20, 2011. 
  7. ^ "survey". Retrieved November 20, 2011. 
  8. ^ "Resident Survey" (PDF). Retrieved November 20, 2011. 
  9. ^ "Business survey" (PDF). Retrieved November 20, 2011. 
  10. ^ "Impact Assessment" (PDF). Retrieved November 20, 2011. 
  11. ^ "presentation" (PDF). Retrieved November 20, 2011. 
  12. ^ "Report". Retrieved November 20, 2011. 
  13. ^ "Cost estimates" (PDF). Retrieved November 20, 2011. 
  14. ^ [1] Archived November 25, 2009, at the Wayback Machine.
  15. ^ "study" (PDF). Retrieved November 20, 2011. 
  16. ^ "recommended" (PDF). Retrieved November 20, 2011. 
  17. ^ "peer-reviewed" (PDF). Retrieved November 20, 2011. 
  18. ^ "Technical Information | Johnson Street Bridge Official Site". Retrieved November 20, 2011. 
  19. ^ "Johnson Street Bridge Report" (PDF). Retrieved 2014-03-07. 
  20. ^ "Johnson Street Bridge Project - Options, Peer Review" (PDF). Retrieved 2014-03-07. 
  21. ^ "Council Decisions on the Johnson Street Bridge Project | Johnson Street Bridge Official Site". Retrieved November 20, 2011. 
  22. ^ "Information packages" (PDF). Retrieved November 20, 2011. 
  23. ^ "Dates". Retrieved November 20, 2011. 
  24. ^ Archived from the original on August 15, 2010. Retrieved August 13, 2010.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  25. ^ Kines, Lindsay (March 31, 2011). "Corrosion damage closes rail section of Johnson Street bridge". Times Colonist. Retrieved April 5, 2011. 
  26. ^ "Johnson Street Bridge Official Site". 
  27. ^ "Johnson Street Bridge Victoria BC - Information, News, Opinion on the rush to replace Victoria's Blue Bridge". 
  28. ^

External links[edit]