You’d think it was a rock concert.
Around noon, over 500 people anxiously waited for the Johnson Street Bridge to officially open.
Members of the crowd had to be reminded to stand back, as they weaved around each other, straining their necks to capture a glimpse of the new bridge.
Construction on the largest infrastructure project ever undertaken by the City of Victoria began in May 2013.
The new bridge will support 30,000 crossings a day including vehicles, local transit, pedestrians, and cyclists.
“We’ve been waiting ten years for this, so another ten minutes won’t kill us,” said Amanda Shultz, who waited patiently among the crowd. Food trucks, coffee stands, musicians and vintage cars lined the streets to entertain the revelers as they waited.
“I think it’s fantastic, a long time coming,” said Harold Sleunwhite who has lived in Victoria for 36 years.
“I don’t come downtown often but when I do it’s always this route. It will definitely help rush hour traffic.”
Sleunwhite offered a unique suggestion for what to do with the old Blue Bridge—even though it has new, offshore owners. He said, “If they were to cut some pieces out of it and give it to a sculpture to make something decent, it would stand as a memory for a lifetime.”
Mayor Lisa Helps officiated the opening and thanked the long list of people involved—from the project manager to the builders.
Mayor Helps specifically thanked the Songhees nation elders who blessed the bridge, adding, “I wonder and worry about all the other bridges that haven’t been blessed,”
People cheered and clapped during the 90 seconds it took for the bridge to be lowered. Then, as a community, the crowd walked over the bridge, taking photos and marveling at the structure.
“It’s a 100 years looking into the future and it’s really exciting day. This marks not only the completion of the bridge but Victoria’s future,” Mayor Helps told Victoria News.
“This bridge project got off to a bit of a rocky start and we brought it back under control. What we see now is a different way of doing current projects—like the fire hall and Crystal Pool… So it’s a lesson learned and going forward we’re taking a different approach to those projects which I think will fare very well.”
Jeremy Loveday was excited to see this project finally come to fruition. “It’s a new chapter in the City’s future, say goodbye to the old Blue Bridge and the memories it holds, and say hello to this next chapter,” he told Victoria News.
“I’m glad the local first nations have played a role in opening this bridge and they have blessed it, and I look forward to moving forward with them in a good way.”
The public seemed very pleased with the outcome of the project—over 100 million dollars and 10 years in the making.
As a group of tourists, unaware of the event’s significance, headed down the side pathway of the structure, a local man excitedly corrected them, “C’mon, man, don’t you know there’s a new bridge?”.
The community celebration will continue until 5 p.m. At 9 p.m. the bridge is expected to open to traffic.
Read our five-part series on the project, ‘Bridging the Gap’, by Tim Collins starting here.