Rail portion of Johnson Street Bridge to come down

Local firms prepare for role in demolition

A workman helps steady a section of railing being lifted by a crane on the rail bridge section of the Johnson Street Blue Bridge. Work is underway to replace both spans of the historic bridge.

Preparatory work at the Johnson Street Bridge is ramping up, signaling its impending demolition.

Demolition was expected to start Feb. 15, but the three-week project has been delayed by about a week. The contractor needs more time to secure the 500-tonne concrete counterweight.

Disconnecting the counterweight from the trestle bridge is the first step in the demolition project, said Andrew Purdy, CEO of Ruskin Construction, the contractor chosen to lead the project.

Once separated, both pieces get dealt with simultaneously.

The trestle will be strengthened with steel bracing at key points before it can be lifted by a 600-tonne crane.

“The joints require to be strengthened to assure us it can withstand its own weight,” said Purdy. “We don’t know what the (potential) failure would be, but we’re not going to take any chances.”

Next, the trestle gets lifted and placed on a barge for recycling.

Meanwhile, the counterweight will be temporarily supported in place while an excavator equipped with a hoe ram breaks it up into smaller pieces. These pieces will then be hauled away in gravel trucks over several days.

“We take the material and process it into aggregate,” said Wayne Dalby, general manager for Ralmax Contracting. “We’d probably use it ourselves … for road building mainly.”

Ralmax, located on the Inner Harbour, will also process the steel trestle, weighing approximately 200 tonnes.

“We’ll use excavators equipped with shears on it to chop the bridge into four-foot pieces and we’ll barge it to a steel mill,” Dalby said.

The city advises to expect minimal delays to traffic, with preriodic short-term road closures from Feb. 14 to 16. Marine traffic will also be closed for three days.

Watch the bridge come down

A handful of engineering classes, some post-secondary instructors, and even a Grade 3 class are keen to get a front row seat to the action.

Over the next few weeks, the rail bridge is coming down – and students and teachers are eager to learn from the experience.

Victoria’s director of communication, Katie Josephson, confirms she’s received several requests.

Andrew Purdy, CEO of Ruskin Construction, said people are welcome to watch, as long as they are in the safe zone.

“We just don’t want to have any conflict with our men and our communications and our equipment,” he said. “We want to make sure that our people aren’t distracted with any kind of noise … so we can focus on the work at hand. It is very, very sensitive work and very heavy weights, but if we’re able to follow our procedures as we have them planned for, we should have no issues.”

For those stuck at work with no time to stand around and watch the action, have no fear. Watch it all unfold on the city’s  webcam, which refreshes a still image of the bridge every 15 minutes. Check it out at www.johnsonstreetbridge.com.