Illustration of the new Johnson Street Bridge, which will have the final major components installed this weekend. Courtesy of the City of Victoria

EDITORIAL: Optimism around Victoria bridge, pessimism as well

As Johnson Street Bridge project nears completion, how will taxpayers judge this council?

The last time the Johnson Street Bridge was shut down for the weekend for major construction on the new bridge, the spectacle drew large crowds of curious onlookers.

This weekend promises to feature more of the same as the final large components, including the bridge deck, are installed with the help of the Dynamic Beast crane barge used to lower the massive ring assemblies into place in December.

While not everyone views these closing months of the project with a sense of excitement, the fact it is nearing completion after years of delays and an ever-ballooning budget gives those who have watched and waited a reason for optimism. The new bridge will create a whole new look for Victoria’s Inner Harbour and be a more suitable icon for our city in the 21st century.

On the other hand, this project started out with a budget of $63 million and will wind up costing more than $105 million – and be completed three years later than planned. Such a discrepancy and added burden on taxpayers will no doubt lead some voters to rethink their choices come this fall’s civic election.

The bridge project began under the previous regime, with many senior staffers who have since left the City. True, most of the current council members were part of the last group. But some of the difficult budgetary decisions required in the past three years were made with the City left in a lurch by suppliers who weren’t as up to the task as first thought. It leads one to wonder whether those forced choices might have been avoided were different ones made at the project’s outset.

Such discussions may well be water under the bridge with no way to go backward, but questions will continue to be asked after the project is completed in late March – the most recent estimate for the bridge’s opening.

Nevertheless, we’re looking forward to seeing the bridge finished and will be marvelling with the rest of the public this weekend as the Beast works its magic.

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