Courtesy of Construction Drilling Inc.Construction Drilling Inc. builds the foundation for the new Johnson Street Bridge in Victoria, B.C.

By Jim Chliboyko

If you’ve been to Victoria, you probably know whether or not you’ve been over the Johnson Street Bridge. 

The name itself may not stand out, and it’s not as impressive as Vancouver’s soaring Lions Gate Bridge. But the Johnson Street Bridge has its own unique charm and a rather steampunk silhouette (as well as a moderately well-used hashtag on Instagram). It is a 90-year-old, light blue, steel, road and rail and pedestrian bascule bridge that connects downtown Victoria with the area towards Victoria West (Esquimalt, View Royal, Saanich and points west). The current bridge is being replaced by a sleeker, more seismic-ready and streamlined bascule bridge, but online commenters have already taken to express how much they’ll miss the old span when it’s gone.

After several years of talking about the replacement bridge, the project itself actually got underway in May 2013. The project’s website says the replacement is “the largest infrastructure project undertaken by the City of Victoria.”

Elsewhere, the site states, “The new bridge will be the largest single-leaf bascule bridge in Canada – and one of the largest in the world – creating a new iconic structure and destination within Victoria’s Inner Harbour.”

The city estimates there are 30,000 crossings on the bridge every day, with 4,000 pedestrians and 3,000 cyclists also using the span. The main reason for the replacement is to meet the needs of a growing population by improving accessibility for pedestrians and cyclists. Also factoring in? Corrosion and obsolescence. Being a West Coast city, there are also aforementioned seismic adjustments needed. The value of the project is estimated to be just under $93 million, some of which is being provided by the Building Canada Fund and some from the Gas Tax Fund, amongst other sources.

The local B.C. firm of Construction Drilling Inc. (CDI), from the town of Duncan, further up the island, was chosen to do the foundation work for the new bridge, which includes the piling for the work trestle from which they were working and then the bridge itself – the drilling of 16 six-foot diameter shafts and the construction of the bridge’s piers. CDI is amongst one of the many island subcontractors working on the job, the main contractor being PCL Constructors Westcoast. CDI has been onsite since mid-summer 2013, and will be there until the job is almost complete.

CDI itself was started in 2005 by Gary Henshaw (formerly of Pacific Pile Driving) and Robin Pedersen, and currently has about 50 employees. The company isn’t just confined to projects that take place on the island; they do work all over the west and down into California.

As with every job, there have been challenges with the Johnson Street Bridge project. If you check out the site on Google Maps, you get a sense of the crowded conditions of the project; the site is an active harbour channel and a federal waterway. Then there’s the deep and immediate slope of the drilling site and the combination of soft overburden and hard rock underneath.


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Piling Canada is the premier national voice for the Canadian deep foundation construction industry. Each issue is dedicated to providing readers with current and informative editorial, including project updates, company profiles, technological advancements, safety news, environmental information, HR advice, pertinent legal issues and more.