After Baltimore catastrophe, project director reassures that Victoria’s Johnson Street Bridge is structurally sound


On the heels of the bridge catastrophe in Baltimore, Maryland, the City of Victoria and a former project director are reassuring how structurally sound the Johnson Street Bridge is.

Investigators are continuing to find out more about how a nearly 1,000-foot-long cargo ship crashed into a support structure of a Baltimore bridge, causing it to collapse.

Two bodies were recovered through diving efforts, with four people still presumed to be dead.

“There’s no way on earth that you could design a bridge that the supports of would withstand the impacts of something of that size,” said Jonathan Huggett, former project director of the Johnson Street Bridge.

Huggett closely watched the aftermath of the Baltimore collapse and wondered why tug boats weren’t used to help navigate a cargo ship of that size.

“You have to remember that was a 100,000-ton ship and it was travelling at seven knots,” he said. “The energy that a vessel like that has is absolutely enormous.”

Huggett oversaw the construction of the new Johnson Street Bridge, which cost the city more than $100 million. Vessels similar to the one that crashed in Baltimore don’t travel through the Bridge. Most vessels that do weigh around 8,000 tons, and tug boats guide them in and out of the waters.

Since the new bridge was built, Huggett says there have only been two minor crashes.

The City of Victoria says there’s close coordination with Transport Canada and harbour users.

“At all times during approach and passage, the vessel operator is under continuous radio or cellular communication with the City’s on-site bridge operator,” said the city in an emailed statement.

The city had spent $105 million to complete the bridge, which included rendering and acting as guards against vessel impact.

“It would destroy the barge before it would damage the bridge, so they’re pretty strong,” said Huggett.

In 2006, a semi-trailer flatbed truck crashed into several vehicles before resting on the edge of the Sooke River Bridge, which disrupted traffic flow in and out of Sooke for an entire day.

On the heels of the Baltimore disaster, B.C.’s Ministry of Transportation says it’s working on designing protection barriers to both the Lion’s Gate Bridge and the Iron Workers Memorial Bridge on the mainland.

“If something were to hit it, it would get deflected away from it and also absorbed any impact or help lessen the energy that was going through it,” said Janelle Staite, deputy director with the Ministry of Transportation.

Oli HerreraOli Herrera

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