Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The Johnson Street Bridge Replacement

We have another nine days to give comments to the city of Victoria on the proposed replacement bridge design for the Johnson Street Bridge.

There are open houses at city hall on the following days:
  • Tuesday, September 15th 7pm – 9pm
  • Monday, September 21 7pm – 9pm

There are displays up at numerous locations around town here is the upcoming list:

  • Fernwood Evening Market, Tuesday September 15
  • Caffe Fantastico (Quadra Village), Wednesday September 16
  • Moka House (Shoal Point), Wednesday September 16
  • Cornerstone CafĂ© (Fernwood), Thursday September 17
  • James Bay Day (Irving Park), Saturday September 19
  • Moss Street Market, Saturday September 19
  • Red Dragon Bistro, Monday September 21

And of course the three designs are available online.

I have looked at the three designs I find none of them visually stunning or exciting. All we are being asked about is the aesthetics of the bridge and not about any of the details of what the bridge will provide and how. At this point I could really care less about any of the looks as none of them makes me say WOW. What I want input into is the fundamental questions of what we want to accomplish with this bridge and what is needed to do this.

My big bugbear is this insistence of the retention of a rail link over the bridge. This is an expense that is not needed. Have the E&N terminal in Vic West at the roundhouse and open up the space being used by the rail line for other uses and reduce the cost of the the bridge.

There are those out there wanting to retain the rail link in hopes of getting rail based transit on the E&N. I believe this is unrealistic to expect in the next generation anywhere in the region and never going to happen on the existing E&N line. To build for something that some people hope for is a waste of money and resources.

Commuter rail is being touted to benefit people on the Westshore. If they want this rail line, they should cover that extra cost of the bridge and not place it on the taxpayers of Victoria. The Island Rail Corridor Foundation should come up with the cash to maintain the line over the bridge.

I am still not at all convinced that the Johnson Street Bridge is what needs to be replaced. When I look at the traffic in the region, I think it would make a lot more sense to build a bigger Point Ellice Bridge to allow a four lane Bay Street from Government through to Esquimalt Road. This would allow a lot more traffic to avoid going into the downtown core. A twin to the existing Point Ellice Bridge would be much cheaper to build than a replacement Johnson Street Bridge, even if one has to spend $25 000 000 refurbishing the existing Johnson Street Bridge.

My concerns lead me back over and over again to the rushed nature of the Johnson Street Bridge project. We have not had a debate on what sort of connections we have and need over the Gorge/Inner Harbour. We have not had any debate on how we want to move traffic from Esquimalt/Vic West to the downtown core.

We spend ages debating the replacement of the Memorial Arena and this was a project less than half the size of the bridge project. The Johnson Street Bridge is something we are being asked to accept with virtually no debate because of a manufactured crisis brought about by a funding timetable. This is simply a badly managed process and will lead to the city spending a lot more money than needed.

I am concerned that the full cost of the bridge will fall on the City of Victoria alone, this is from their website:

Q: How will the City fund the new bridge if provincial and federal funding falls through?

A: If the City is not successful in securing stimulus funding, it will seek approval to borrow the full amount but will only spend what is needed.

As a federal election looms and BC and Canada have not come to terms on the stimulus package, I highly doubt that the money will be there to cost share this project. This is a lot of debt for the city take on.

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