Bridge Crossing History
The existing Johnson Street Bridge has been a recognizable landmark to Victoria’s Inner Harbour since it opened on January 11, 1924. It is the third bridge crossing built at its location.
The first bridge crossing was the Victoria Bridge, built in 1854. It was removed in 1862 and replaced with a ferry service to allow for better marine access to the Upper Harbour.
In 1888, a swing bridge was built to provide the Esquimalt & Nanaimo (E&N) Railway with access to downtown Victoria. It accommodated pedestrians, but vehicles crossed at the former Point Ellice Bridge. Inadequacies of the swing bridge were recognized and led to the construction of the present day bridge.
The existing Johnson Street Bridge was designed under the direction of Mr. F. M. Preston, City Engineer in 1920. The bascule bridge’s design included two separate bascules, the railway section and the road 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 of concrete. The main opening span is 148 feet in length and when in the open position is balanced over a 45-foot fixed span. The eastern approach is spanned by a 110-foot fixed girder while the western approach has a 73-foot 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 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 of the decking.Go to Top