Anyone who pays the least bit of attention to news here in the City of Gardens is painfully aware that the Johnson Street Bridge replacement has had its fair share of problems. Almost nothing the City of Victoria has gambled on has come out in its favour — opposition has been fierce, we’ve lost and gained the capacity for rail access more times than anyone cares to keep track of, and the project’s nebulous budget has continued to rise despite both scope and design being significantly scaled back.
Worst of all, no matter what the city has done, it just can’t seem to keep up with the breakneck pace required to keep the Blue Bridge replacement from descending into chaos. When the replacement was first proposed, we just didn’t have enough time for anything but an Alternative Approval Process. After the public wasted all that time forcing a referendum, we had to make up for lost ground and jump on a design decision before it was too late. Every wasted minute is a wasted dollar, and every doubt we indulge is bound to take up valuable time.
“It always seems to be that staff say we have no time when they’re trying to jam council to do something,” says long-time opponent Ross Crockford. “Staff can take as much time as they want, it’s when staff want to put council on the spot to make a decision, that’s when they say we have no time.”
“This has been the pattern,” says Crockford, pointing to the recent approval of a staggering $15.8-million budget, when council was given only three days between receiving the budget report and approving the increase. “How are they supposed to get any kind of information in three days?”
Doing our best to avoid vicious speculation, with time clearly a precious commodity, we are forced to wonder why — after $11.33 million spent and nearly a year past the project’s original completion date — the city is still sitting on half of the original bridge.
As the more time-sensitive elements of the Johnson Street Bridge replacement become increasingly irrelevant in the face of secure funding and grudging public acceptance, perhaps the city can pause in its blind rush to keep up while there’s still time to change course. M