A Cheat Sheet to the Johnson Street Bridge Saga

The Johnson Street Bridge is a bridge in waiting. Here's everything you need to know about the nine-year ordeal.

The Details of the Johnson Street Bridge Design

Bridge Type

The new bridge will be the largest single-leaf bascule bridge in Canada (and one of the largest in the world). Its unique feature is its lack of a central axle. “The bridge is supported only on the perimeter of the rings,” says project director Jonathan R. Huggett. “The purpose of getting rid of the central axle is to allow better access for the public to see the working of the bridge from underneath.”

The London Docklands has a similar bridge, “but it’s not nearly as big as the Johnson Street Bridge and it does not have the complete ring that the Johnson Street Bridge has,” Huggett says.

Down to Specs

Counterweights balance the bridge, allowing for the smooth upward swing of the deck span as it opens. The new bridge has three counterweights: a large one under the road deck, which connects between the two rings, and two weights on top of the rings.
“PCL won’t put the ballast into the counterweights until they lift everything and assemble it,” Huggett says. “The counterweights are large hollow structures. They are eventually filled with a mixture of lead, steel plate and concrete.”

Putting it All Together

The final shipment of steel pieces arrived in Victoria in late September and included the bridge deck structure and the pedestrian and multi-use pathways. A 900-tonne-capacity crane called “the Beast” will be used to put it all together.

“The larger crane allows PCL to assemble all of the bascule span on dry land before it is lifted in place,” Huggett says. “That will include the walkways on both sides.”

The Johnson Street Bridge By the Numbers

About 30,000

Number of crossings a day, including vehicles, local transit, pedestrians and cyclists. More than 4,000 pedestrians and 3,000 cyclists use the bridge to access downtown each weekday.


The City of Victoria is paying a little over 60 per cent of the total bridge replacement costs.
(The Government of Canada is also providing funding.)


More than 50 per cent of the new bridge will accommodate pedestrians and cyclists, including on-road bike lanes, a multi-use trail for pedestrians and cyclists and a dedicated pedestrian pathway.

Hover your mouse over the image to learn more about the new bridge:

Little-Known Fact

The Johnson Street Bridge project was singled out by the Canadian Taxpayers Federation as a money-waster, earning the organization’s 2017 Municipal Teddy Government Waste Award.

The old bridge will be removed and the steel recycled where possible.

A Timeline of the Nine-Year Bridge

Apr 23, 2009

Council decides to replace the bridge and gives approval-in-principle.

July 24, 2009

Council awards a contract to MMM Group Ltd. to project-manage the replacement of the 85-year-old bascule bridge.

Aug 12, 2010

City councillors vote to replace the bridge rather than refurbish. All except Coun. Geoff Young support replacing the bridge.

Nov 2010

After rigorous local debate, in a referendum citizens approve by 61% to 39% (a 4,000-vote margin) the City of Victoria’s borrowing of up to $49.2 million toward replacing of the bridge.

Jan 7, 2013

City signs $63-million fixed-price contract with PCL Constructors to replace the Johnson Street Bridge by the spring of 2016.

Jul 2014

Significant flaws in steel fabrication by Jiangsu Zhongtai Steel Structure in China lead to PCL pausing the project. Deadline pushed to December 31, 2017.

Sept 30, 2015

The original deadline for completion of the bridge.

June 15, 2017

Completion of the bridge is pushed back again due to delays in steel fabrication in China. Estimated new opening date is March 30, 2018.

Aug 22, 2017

The first shipment of steel for the new bridge arrives at the Point Hope Shipyard in Victoria.

Sept 17, 2017

The final steel shipment arrives from China, including the 46-metre-long bridge deck span

  This article is from the October/November 2017 issue.