After almost a decade of work on the Johnson Street Bridge and more than a $65 million price jump, the request by Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps for an independent audit may be fulfilled.
Gordon Ruth of the B.C. Auditor General for Local Government (AGLG) responded to Helps request in a letter to say the next audit topic for his team has been identified as Capital Project Management and will consider the mayor’s request during the audit selection process.
The Johnson Street Bridge was the largest capital project in the city’s history and according to Helps “it didn’t go well.”
March 31 saw the one year anniversary of the bridge opening, and while the general consensus on the bridge is pretty positive now, it caused major turmoil throughout the building process resulting in two key policy changes being implemented.
The project management framework sets out the guidelines of all large capital projects and the estimate policy requires a third party to verify the cities work.
Helps calls the two policies the legacy of the last council and says thanks to them “we will never do another project like the Johnson Street Bridge.”
Helps says she’s curious to see what other recommendations an audit could make if it did end up going forward, adding the findings could help other local governments with their own large capital projects.
Johnson Street Bridge timeline:
Preliminary work beginning in April 2009 when Victoria city council made the decision to replace the old Blue Bridge, which was deemed a ‘very significant heritage landmark.’
The debate over whether to replace or rehabilitate the bridge ensued and it wasn’t until August 2010 that council voted in a near unanimous vote to replace.
In January 2013 the City of Victoria signed a fixed-price contract of $63 million to replace the old Johnson Street Bridge by the spring of 2016. The project was dubbed the largest capital project in the City’s history.
Fast forward to March of 2014, Jiangsu, a Chinese steel manufacturer, begins to fabricate major parts of the bridge. A few months later in July of the same year Victoria receives word the steel and fabrication are sub-par causing the anticipated completion date for the bridge back to January 2017.
In April 2016 Victoria councillors were asked to approve $8.2 million for the project, bringing the cost to $105.06 million, $42 million more than the original budget. Two months later the City’s senior project manager was removed from his position.
In February 2017, the project is awarded the most wasteful project of the year, citing the $42 million increase on what started as a $63 million project.
Finally in August 2017 the first shipment of steel for the new bridge arrives with the final shipment arriving in September 2017. A gigantic crane barge called The Dynamic Beast, arrived in Victoria in December 2017 and again in January 2018 to finish assembling the bridge. In February 2018 the new Johnson Street Bridge is raised for the first time.
On March 31, 2018 the bridge opened to vehicle traffic for the first time.
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