The Johnston Bridge is closed to vehicles heavier than 10,000 kg. (Melanie Law photo)

Load restrictions on Quesnel’s Johnston Bridge unlikely to end soon

Process to repair bridge is long and slow, says city manager

By Melanie Law

Special to the Observer

The importance of having two crossings over the Quesnel River was never more apparent than on July 13, 2020, when a hit-and-run incident damaged the Quesnel River Bridge, resulting in heavy traffic delays and the bridge reduced to a single lane for around four hours.

The Johnston Bridge, which in the past would have mitigated delays, is closed to vehicles heavier than 10,000 kg, and is also currently reduced to its south-bound lane only, due to high flood waters in the Johnston Bridge Loop.

For four hours on July 13, the only way into Quesnel’s downtown core from across the river was via the one-lane Quesnel River Bridge.

Quesnel city manager Byron Johnson admitted it was a worst-case scenario: “[The Johnston Bridge lane closure] wouldn’t have been a big deal but [the incident on Quesnel River Bridge] created such a massive traffic back up — it was problems wherever you looked,” he said.

The Johnston Bridge lane closure is new this year, and was implemented to ensure the 10,000 kg load limit is not breached due to traffic congestion. During flooding of the Johnston Bridge Loop, a passing train, or even heavy traffic on the Moffat Bridge Approach, has the potential to create a bottleneck on the bridge.

“10,000kg is not that much weight. If the bridge gets backed up with cars solid stacked on it, that would exceed the load rating,” explained Johnson.

The 10,000 kg load restriction has been in place since October 2018, when a routine inspection revealed the bridge is structurally compromised.

READ MORE: Johnston Bridge to close from Oct. 3 due to “compromised” bridge structure

Although the City is committed to repairing the bridge, the lower load rating will remain for the foreseeable future.

Planning, design and repair of the bridge will take between one-and-a-half to two years — but Johnson said acquiring the funds to do the work will add considerable time to the project.

“Council does not have a bridge reserve set aside with a big pool of cash for us to get started,” he said. “We need to find that funding either through the regular capital process of taxing and saving for it, or getting a loan for it, or finding a grant for it.”

The City is looking into available grants, but the process is long and slow.

“The problem with funding windows is they come open once a year, and sometimes not that frequent for some of the grants,” Johnson explained.

An engineering firm has provided a detailed review of the scope of the repair work needed and given the City three options. The cheapest Johnson called a “Band-aid” fix, and would only repair the bridge for heavy loads for a short time. Option two would see the bridge operational over 10,000 kg for between 20 and 25 years. The third option is a complete bridge replacement project.

“We as staff will be recommending the 20-year repair, which [will cost] in the range of $4 million to $5 million, maybe slightly more,” said Johnson. The project would see the steel structure repaired, plus reinforcements placed underwater around the bridge’s piers.

He said staff will be making the recommendation to Quesnel City Council at a meeting in August 2020, after which staff will be directed on which grants to seek out.

Although he admitted the bridge replacement option would be great, Johnson said a project of that scope would cost between $12 million and $16 million – money the City simply does not have.

The 20-year repair would see the bridge structure largely unchanged, with two lanes with drop-through steel decking.

Do you have a comment about this story? email:

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.


Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Troll Ski Resort is preparing for a ski season in the middle of a pandemic. (Quesnel Cariboo Observer File Photo)
Quesnel-area ski resort preparing for throwback season

Troll owner Hildur Fossberg Sinclair said they will operate like it was 30-40 years ago

Fifty spectators will be allowed in the West Fraser Centre, alongside 50 people on the ice. (Lindsay Chung Photo - Quesnel Cariboo Observer)
After tumultuous week of changes, Quesnel’s West Fraser Centre allowing spectators again

Capacity limits at the rink have changed four times in the past two weeks

The Quesnel SPCA is looking for foster homes for kittens, puppies and other small animals. (BC SPCA Photo)
“Genuine lifesavers”: BCSPCA puts out call for foster volunteers

The COVID-19 pandemic means more foster volunteers are needed to handle reduced capacity

Quesnel residents still needed to cross Fraser River footbridge, despite the winter weather. (Cassidy Dankochik Photo - Quesnel Cariboo Observer)
Quesnel discovers October winter wonderland

Cariboo residents awoke to snow on their cars, and plows on the road to deal with the white stuff

Grizzly bear sightings are up in the Likely area this year. (Ivan Hardwick photo)
COS says grizzly bear sightings up in the Likely area

Two grizzly bear siblings were moved a short distance away from Likely

B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry gives a daily briefing on COVID-19 cases at an almost empty B.C. Legislature press theatre in Victoria, B.C., on March 25, 2020. (Don Craig/B.C. government)
B.C. sees 223 new COVID-19 cases, now 2,009 active

Two new care home outbreaks in Surrey, Burnaby

Chastity Davis-Alphonse took the time to vote on Oct. 21. B.C’s general Election Day is Saturday, Oct. 24. (Chastity Davis-Alphonse Facebook photo)
B.C. reconciliation advocate encourages Indigenous women to vote in provincial election

Through the power of voice and education Chastity Davis-Alphonse is hopeful for change

White Rock RCMP Staff Sgt. Kale Pauls has released a report on mental health and policing in the city. (File photos)
White Rock’s top cop wants to bill local health authority for lengthy mental-health calls

‘Suggestion’ included in nine-page review calling for ‘robust’ support for healthcare-led response

A Le Chateau retail store is shown in Montreal on Wednesday July 13, 2016. Le Chateau Inc. says it is seeking court protection from creditors under the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act to allow it to liquidate its assets and wind down its operations.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Clothing retailer Le Chateau plans to close its doors, files for CCAA protection

Le Chateau said it intends to remain fully operational as it liquidates its 123 stores

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

RCMP stock photo (Black Press)
Charges laid against Prince George man, 39, in drug trafficking probe

Tyler Aaron Gelowitz is scheduled to appear in court Nov. 18

Green party Leader Sonia Furstenau arrives to announce her party’s election platform in New Westminster, B.C., on October 14, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. Green party says it’s raised nearly $835,000 in 38 days

NDP Leader John Horgan is holding his final virtual campaign event

U.S. border officers at the Peace Arch crossing arrested two men on California warrants this week. (File photo)
Ottawa predicts system delays, backlogs unless court extends life of refugee pact

Canada and the United States recognize each other as safe places to seek protection

Most Read