Flagger shortage causes Johnson Street Bridge closure to be postponed

Flagger shortage causes Johnson Street Bridge closure to be postponed

WATCH:  Victoria’s Johnson Street Bridge Replacement Project has hit another roadblock. This time, a shortage of traffic control workers. As Isabelle Raghem reports, a crunch for flaggers is being felt across the Capital Region. 

The City of Victoria said the Johnson Street Bridge will no longer be closed overnight Thursday due to a lack of traffic control workers.

Jonathan Huggett, the project director of the Johnson Street Bridge Replacement Project, says the postponed closure was caused by a shortage of traffic control workers. Huggett said this was an oversight by PCL Contracting

“They told us they were going ahead and we put the notice out there and then they called and said oops our traffic company can’t accommodate us,” said Huggett.

The bridge was set to be closed from 9 p.m. on Sept. 7 to 5 a.m. on Sept. 8 so old wooden piles could be taken away to make room for a large crane barge. The barge will be used during the installation of the new bridge.

According to the City of Victoria, the closure of the bridge will take place later in September.

The shortage of flaggers is being seen across the capital region.

“We’re having to do more with less,” said SPR Traffic Services General Manager Tieg Clark “Trying to manage [the shortage] best as we can. Unfortunately, it means some contractors are left short on a day to day basis.”

While SPR Traffic isn’t working on the Johnson Street Bridge Project, they too have been struggling to meet the demand for other projects.

“The need is much greater than what we have on staff right now, ” adds Clark. “Daily, we’re juggling what our clients requiring and what we have and booking as far out as three weeks right now with a historical marketplace or industry that relies on next day service.”

The Vancouver Island Construction Association (VICA) says the shortage of flaggers is hitting the industry hard.

“Somebody might think that something as simple as traffic control couldn’t halt a project but when you think of the safety aspect for both workers and pedestrians it’s important, if not critical to any construction project,” said Rory Kulmala, VICA CEO.

The shortage comes in the midst of a construction boom in Victoria and at a time where the high cost of living makes recruitment challenging.

“Whether it’s traffic control, carpenters, plumbers, electricians, there’s a shortage across the board,” said Kulmala.

The first shipment of steel for the new Johnson Street bridge arrived at the Point Hope Shipyard on Aug. 22. The final steel components left Shanghai at the end of August and are expected to arrive in late September. 

The Project Director insists this hurdle won’t cause further delays to the project that is already three years behind schedule.

“It won’t affect anything else and we’ve got plenty of time to do. It’s not a critical task that we have to do,” said Huggett.

The new bridge is slated to open to traffic March 2018.

Isabelle RaghemIsabelle Raghem

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