Johnson Street Bridge

Coordinates: 48°25′41″N 123°22′18″W / 48.428061°N 123.371594°W / 48.428061; -123.371594 The Johnson Street Bridge is a bascule bridge that spans the harbour of Victoria, British Columbia. It is commonly referred to as the "Blue Bridge" because of its distinctive blue colour.

The bascule spans were designed by the Strauss Bascule Company Limited and were fabricated in Ontario. The sub-structure was built by the City of Victoria Engineering Department and required 9,144 cubic metres (11,960 cubic yards) of concrete. The bridge was completed in January 1924 at a cost of C$918,000. The bridge originally had street car rails running down the center of the road span, but they were never used, and were removed a few years later. The original wood deck was replaced by a steel grid in 1966 and the steel structure was repainted in 1979 as part of an extensive renovation.

The bridge has two opening spans of 45 m (148 ft) that operate independently, a three-lane highway span of 350 tonnes and a railway span of 150 tons. The approaches are fixed girders, the east is 34 m (112 ft) and the west is 22 m (72 ft). The counterweights are made of hollow concrete and total 780 tonnes. Daily traffic in 2010 is 30,000 trips a day at peak usage, of which 4000 are pedestrians, 3000 cyclists, and 23,000 vehicles. The rail span for the E&N is used twice a day by the Via Rail Dayliner, for trips up the island towards Duncan, Nanaimo and Courtenay.


The Johnson Street Bridge was designed under the direction of Mr. F. M. Preston, City Engineer in 1920. This is a Bascule-type bridge in which one end rises while a counter weight lowers on the opposite end. The Johnson Street Bridge has two separate Bascules, the Railway section and the Highway section.

The Strauss Bascule Company Limited, which held the patents on the design, prepared the design for the bascule spans and the operating machinery. Joseph Strauss later went on to design the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. The superstructure of the bridge was fabricated in Walkerville, Ontario and contains 100 tons of steel. The City of Victoria Engineering Department built the sub-structure of the bridge. It required 10,000 cubic yards (7,600 cubic metres) of concrete. The main opening span is 148 feet (45 m) in length and when in the open position is balanced over a 45-foot (14 m) fixed span. The eastern approach is spanned by a 110-foot (34 m) fixed girder while the western approach has a 73-foot (22 m) fixed girder.

The counter weight block on the highway span is a hollow concrete structure and contains a number of smaller concrete weights and tips the scale at over 780-tons. It balances the 350-ton opening span. The linkage is moved by two large racks which are driven by two 75 horsepower (56 kilowatts) electric motors.

The Johnson Street Bridge was completed at a cost of $918,000 and opened in January of 1924. The original deck of the bridge was constructed of wood timbers. Besides being slippery in wet weather, the timber absorbed water and became heavier which affected the balance and placed excessive loads on the opening machinery. The timbers were replaced by an open steel grid decking of constant weight in 1966.

In 1979, extensive repairs were made to the superstructure, which had become severely corroded. The blue paint now on the bridge was selected because the oxides of its pigment are the same colour as the paint so that little fading of the colour occurs.

In 1995, abnormally high temperatures caused the steel decking to expand to the point the bridge would not open or close properly. This necessitated the removal of about 1-inch (25 mm) of the decking.


On April 2, 2009, the preliminary results of an overall condition assessment of the Johnson Street Bridge were presented to Victoria City Council; Council gave approval-in-principle on April 23, 2009 to replace the 85-year-old Johnson Street Bridge.

The Delcan Report concluded:

After a detailed presentation by City Engineering staff and Delcan engineering consultants, and lengthy discussion by Council, an approval-in-principle to proceed with replacement of the bridge was made.

On July 9, 2009, Victoria City Council asked staff to proceed with pursuing a design-build model and developing terms of reference for an advisory panel of community representatives to participate in the Johnson Street Bridge Replacement Project.

On July 24, 2009, seven residents of Greater Victoria were named to the Johnson Street Bridge Citizen Advisory Committee and City Council awarded the Owner's Representative contract to MMM Group Limited to project manage the replacement of the 85-year-old bascule bridge.

On September 8, 2009, Victoria City Council was presented with the 3 design concepts for the new Johnson Street Bridge.

On September 24, 2009, City Council decided on the Rolling Bascule Bridge as the design for the new Johnson Street Bridge after reviewing public feedback, recommendations from the Citizens Advisory Committee and advice from a staff technical committee.

On November 19, 2009, City Council voted in favour of Alternate Approval Process to require a counter petition. (Vote, out of 8: 4 in favour, 2 against, 2 absent) If more than 10% of residents (6400) oppose the borrowing bylaw, then the issue goes to a referendum.

October/November, 2009 Province of BC declines to contribute to funding bridge project. A few weeks later federal government approves $21 million grant for replacement project. Federal funding comes from Build Canada Fund.

December 2009, Counter Petition is launched to force the city to go to a referendum to obtain approval for funding bylaw No.09-057 to borrow $42 million towards the total of $63, with $21 million from federal funding. Text of petition reads: "I, the undersigned elector residing or owning real property within the City of Victoria, do hereby present my name on this elector response form for the purpose of opposing the Council of the City of Victoria adopting Loan Authorization (Johnson Street Bridge) Bylaw No. 09-057 without first obtaining the assent of the electors by a vote (referendum)." Signatures must be gathered by January 4th, 2010.

On 2010 January 4, Organizers present successful counter petition to City Hall, with 9872 valid Victoria elector signatures. Borrowing bylaw for bridge project must now go to a referendum.

2010 February, City commissions MMM Group to prepare full Class C report on comparable options for replacement and rehabilitation.

On 2010 May 27, Results of Ipsos Reid survey . For residents, factors in bridge decisions rank (in order of importance) a dedicated pedestrian walkway, lifespan of the bridge, cost, dedicated bike lanes, accessibility for other users (wheelchairs, scooters, strollers, visually impaired), and safety, above heritage value and having a rail crossing. Business owners did not see a benefit from one option over the other, but concerns over cost and construction issues including potential closures were top of mind.

June 11, 2010 Banjar Management Economic Impact Assessment identifies economic benefits to "range between $48 million and $54 million for the rehabilitation alternative and $47 to $53 million for replacement of the Bridge over the four to five years required for project delivery." Negative economic impact was assessed as follows: DOWNTOWN VICTORIA BUSINESS IMPAIRMENT Full closure $10.3 million One lane open $5.1 million Two lanes open $2.6 million VEHICLE DIVERSION TRAVEL TIME COSTS Full closure $1.6 million One lane open $1.0 million Two lanes open $0.4 million BUS DIVERSION COSTS ONE YEAR TWO YEAR Transit Operation Cost $0.5 million $1.0 million Transit passenger travel time $1.0 million $2.0 million

On June 14, 2010, MMM Engineering Group made a presentation to council of their report on the rehabilitation and replacement options, including updated cost estimates , revised timelines , economic impact study of potential closures and options for different levels of seismic upgrading (6.5m vs 8.5m). Refurbishment, with seismic upgrades to 8.5 as recommended in the report, and a third, new span to be a multi-use bridge, is estimated to cost 103 million. Replacement of the existing structure, with accompanying work on the approaches to the bridge, with priority given to a mix of users including vehicles, pedestrians and cyclists, is estimated to cost 89 million. The MMM Group study was also peer-reviewed by Stantec Consulting Ltd, Victoria. Stantec found the proposed bridge "technically appropriate", and that the projected costs for both rehab and replacement were "considered reasonable."

On June 17, City Council decided to ask other municipalities to fund the costs of maintaining the rail link. This reduces the cost of refurbishment by $23 million, and replacement by $12 million. Long-term planning for commuter rail to the Western communities will be affected if the rail line no longer crosses into downtown Victoria, and instead terminates in Victoria West. The deadline for obtaining this funding is August 12, 2010. The City Council also voted on this date to update the bridge to a seismic standard of 8.5 magnitude.

July 8, 2010 Information packages and numbered surveys sent out to all Victoria residents. City invites input up to August 12 deadline.

In July 2010 City of Victoria hosts 2 open houses and bridge tours to provide information on the projects to residents. City staff, engineers, and project managers are present to answer questions.

On August 12, 2010, Victoria city councillors voted to replace the Johnson Street Bridge, rather than refurbish the existing bridge. All councillors except for Coun. Geoff Young supported replacing the bridge. The vote was done after tours, open houses, and surveys were done to inform residents of Victoria of the options. An Ipsos-Reid survey found that 64% and 68% of residents and businesses respectively preferred replacing the bridge with a new one. A referendum would still be held on November 20, 2010 to ask residents if they support the city borrowing money for the cost of the new bridge.

On November 20, 2010 the referendum to support the city borrowing money for the cost of the new bridge passed 60% to 40%. The new bridge is scheduled to be completed in 2015, at which time the old bridge will be removed.

On March 31, 2011, the bridge was closed to rail traffic after inspections found corrosion on key structural supports. The Victoria – Courtenay train needs to set up a temporary stop.

A City of Victoria website supports the project and Ross Crockford, Yule Heibel, and Mat Wright run a preservationist web site . There is also a local group "The JSB Group", made up of downtown residents and business owners that support the new Johnson Street Bridge.

  • The Johnson Street Bridge closing

  • The Johnson Street Bridge opening

  • Johnson Street Bridge from the Harbour

Building Activity

  • OpenBuildings
    OpenBuildings updated a digital reference
    about 6 years ago via Annotator
  • OpenBuildings
    OpenBuildings updated a digital reference and added a digital reference
    about 6 years ago via
  • Andrew Hughes
    Andrew Hughes commented
    wtf, it's a metal bridge and was not built in 2010. it's about to be replaced, too.
    about 6 years ago via Mobile
  • Radil Radenkov
    Radil Radenkov updated
    about 6 years ago via