Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Lions Gate Bridge Refurbishment versus the Johnson Street Bridge Refuribishment

For the record, I do not like the look of the Johnson Street bridge, but I am not a fan of spending a lot of taxpayer money needlessly for a new bridge that is more expensive than we need.

I thought I would contrast the last major heritage bridge project in BC to the purported costs of the Johnson Street Bridge Refurbishment.

Some Facts

  • Lions Gate suspension span - 850 metres
  • Johnson Street bridge main span - 60 metres
  • Lions Gate 70,000 cars per day
  • Johnson Street 23,000 car per day
  • Lions Gate project cost $86.5 million
  • Johnson Street Bridge project $79 - $104 million
  • Lions Gate project 16 months
  • Johnson Street project 4 years
  • Lions Gate no daytime closures
  • Johnson Street project one year full closure of the bridge
  • both projects are seismic upgrades


Some other important differences:

  • The Lions Gate bridge is high above the water and required all work to be done from the bridge.   
  • The Lions Gate bridge is a suspension bridge which makes replacing the old deck with a larger new deck particularly difficult.   
  • The Lions Gate bridge was in bad enough condition by 1974 that vehicles over 13,600 GVW were banned from the bridge.
  • The northern causeway to the Lions Gate bridge has severely deteriorated over the years and had 1000 pot holes per year, bridge maintenance was costing $3 million per year.
  • The Lions Gate project also included widening the 2 km road through Stanley Park, effectively the contractor had to build a whole new 2 km roadway


With all this information, I can not for the life of me understand how the Johnson Street Bridge could cost from $79 to $104 million to refurbish.   There is nothing in what I can read about the Johnson Street Bridge that indicates it is in worse condition than the Lions Gate bridge in 1999, in fact it seems the Lions Gate bridge was in worse condition.

The scope of the two projects is the same but the scale is nowhere close to each other.   My rough estimate is that the Lions Gate bridge project was about five to ten times as large a project as the Johnson Street Bridge project.   Even the initial estimate in Delcan report of $23.6 million for refurbishment seems high when one compares the scope of this project to the Lions Gate one.

Frankly, based on reading the Delcan report I am not sure where all the money is going to be spent.   One only need to look at the LaSalle Causeway bridge in Kingston to see that what was said that needed to be done in the Delcan report, other than seismic upgrading, was done for $3.1 million.

In the MMM costs estimates for refurbishment, $5 million is set aside for painting, more than $9 million contingency and more than $9 million for engineering and project management, $7 million for inflation.   All in all, the cost estimates for refurbishment look rather padded.

I am beginning to think the refurbishment costs were fiddled with to make the capital costs of the replacement option look reasonable when it clearly is not.

Some Reading on the Lions Gate Project:

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