The man heading up Johnson Street Bridge project answers hard questions

The man who took over responsibility of finishing the problem-plagued Johnson Street Bridge says the cost of the project is at $105-million now -- about $42-million over the original cost, and it's going to go up. By how much, Jonathan Huggett can't say.

Appearing on CFAX , Huggett said that's because 2 items still need to be accounted for -- the "public realm" or finishing of public spaces, and fendering to prevent ships from running into it.

Huggett says fendering under the channel is already in place, while fendering on the south side is provided by existing piers, which will stay. What's still missing is fendering on the north side, which has yet to be designed, and costs figured out. 

Huggett says despite critics who say it will be inadequate,  the city has consulted with world experts as to what is needed, and will go with that advice. Huggett  adds there is no way to estimate costs until a properly constructed plan, along with a proper estimate, is done. 

Huggett, who came on board in 2014, says the fendering was not properly defined in the contract signed in 2012, and the city launched mediation with the designers over the matter.

That prompted this comment for a CFAX caller:

" I think there's a serious problem with credibility, the engineers on this job.  I think they should fire them all."

Huggett responded this way:

" I have to say that since the mediation, I cannot criticize the engineers. I mean, what is in the past is in the past. I wasn't past of the past. My job is to deal with the future. The engineers are working well with us, they're doing a good job now.  I'm pleased with the way they are acting, and that's all I can say."

Huggett says cost estimates coming forward now are done in a very different way than when the bridge started.

As for recent controversy raised by Seaspan that the city is trying to dictate slower speeds, Huggett maintains the city is not doing that, adding Seaspan is reputable, and knows best how to go under the bridge without hitting it.

As for finishing the green spaces on both sides of the bridge, also known as "the public realm", a city planner will present ideas to council on April 13th surrounding what could possibly be done. 

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