Monday, March 28, 2011

Latest on the Blue Bridge

While the chatter coming from various directions, promoted ad nauseum by some, that there are cheap and easy fixes that will save the old Blue Bridge, ongoing work by the city and its consultants continue to find evidence to the contrary.

With the new bridge project underway, though mostly on paper at this stage (design details), keeping the old bridge safe enough to serve for another three years remains a task at hand.  Rust never sleeps, of course, nowhere more so than on the wet coast, sitting astride a salt water harbour where the wind blows and the sea wash filter through the old structure.  Compromised rivets pop up like measles on a two year old.  Fixes will be more robust than band aids and bailing wire but the analogy is not too far from a harsh reality.

City staff and engineering consultants were out on the bridge Sunday, the 27th of March, chipping away at concrete to analyze rivet conditions along the steel members encased by the concrete counterweights - something no one has been able to look at for almost 90 years.

Starker still are unique points of failure that will be repeated throughout the superstructure.  Everwhere where there are rivets under stress, allowing salt water mositure to seep in between sandwich plates of cheap steel,  the integrity of bridge beams are increasingly being compromised.  Close examination of the interconnectedness of every part of the machine should dispel any notion of a complete and durable refurbishment without taking the entire structure apart.

Trying to do it on site would turn the Inner Harbour into a tailings pond.  A point of reference for marina opponents is the potential environmental impacts on the harbour from construction and operations, not to mention the disenfrachisement of people powered craft that enjoy the northwest shores of the harbour.  Those are very valid concerns.  By comparison, even repainting the bridge on site, a logistical nightmare on any movable bridge, and most problematic on bascule structures, would pose untold risks to the marine environment.  Look closely at what is already shedding and the concern should become apparent.

One recent letter to the editor promoted the fiction that we didn't do our homework on the bridge.  It's still a work in progress, but as the project moves forward we continue to confirm that the original findings of our condtion assessments have been followed by prudent and sustainable decisions.

Fresh pictures of our bridge in decline are newly posted in my flickr gallery at

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Green and the economy

No surprise that the federal government is underperforming in the creation of jobs for the future.  While we continue to float above some of the rest of western economies on a sea of oil, building a more sustainable future at all levels, doesn't seem to be on the Harper agenda.

See the story in the Vancouver Sun:

We have locally taken some of the stimulus funding to create our own green infrastructure, so credit is due to the feds for the investment in our Johnson St. Bridge project.  The new bridge will improve conditions for cycling and walking dramatically, inviting people to shift their trips to more sustainable modes. 

Still there is more to the green economy that our transportation systems design, and we have other initiatives underway that should help us meet environmental objectives, particularly reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.  Elements of our sewage treatment options for the Capital Region include, potentially, recovering heat from waste and distributing it through a district energy system - one plant or heat source for many buildings and businesses.

If the energy centre comes to Victoria, we could link the system to yet to be developed brownfield sites at Rock Bay in the Upper Harbour area.  One of the directions we have been investigating might be to target the neighbourhood for a hi-tech park that would cluster knowledge and skills in a near downtown location and use the heat and energy from wastewater treatment to help support the industry.  The more central location would invite, as well, more sustainable travel choices and support greening of our local, light industrial sector.  At this point, it's an idea, not yet a plan, but something worth exploring further as various projects come into focus.

One of the initiatives the city has undertaken of late is to sign on with Mayor Gregor Robertson of Vancouver and Mike McGinn in a "Cascadia" sustainability initiative to try and attract complementary green business and industry to the northwest.  Kudos to Victoria Mayor Fortin for leading the charge on behalf of the city.


Hi-tech is already our biggest industry locally - it generates more dollars than tourism and other industries usually seen as staples of Victoria's economy.  Hi-tech is a fluid, mobile industry, and not just the clean energy supports will be important to attracting business.  The things we are doing to support active transportation - cycling and walking, and an active, outdoors lifestyle, are big attractions to businesses that can locate anywhere.  Building a better transit system will need to happen too.

The future of our region, economically and environmentally, will depend on how we respond to the climate change challenge and on the social ledger, creating a vibrant place to live, invest and work will also help us to address the other account on our triple bottom line.  It's something every level of government needs to tackle with us.