01/07/2013 15:18 EST | Updated 03/09/2013 05:12 EST

Victoria signs contract for new Johnson Street Bridge

The City of Victoria has signed a fixed-price contract worth $63-million to replace the old Johnson Street Bridge by the spring of 2016.

Construction to replace the iconic blue bridge in the inner harbour is scheduled begin this spring and will be the largest capital project in the city's history.

Mayor Dean Fortin said the fixed-priced deal with PCL Constructors ensures citizens will not see tax increases from the project.

"We're happy to be at the point where we can say, 'You know, we are on budget. We're delivering the amenities that we said that were going to happen.'"

But critics note the total cost of the project, including architectural and engineering work is $92 million. Ross Crockford, a spokesperson for the group, questioned why the city is budgeting about $30 million for administrative and engineering fees.

"That's close to a third of the project budget is going to be taken up essentially by administrative tasks. My understanding is that is much, much higher than is typical for a bridge project. The amounts are usually more like 15 per cent," said Crockford.

Crockford also noted the city remains liable for any extra costs if First Nations burial sites are uncovered or the cost of steel increases.

The Johnson Street Bridge was built in 1924 to connect downtown Victoria with Esquimalt, and is reportedly one of only two counterweight bridges of its type left in the world. The counterweight design allows the bridge to rise so taller ships may sail beneath it.

Victoria residents voted to replace the iconic blue structure in November, 2010, with a three-lane bridge, complete with bike lanes, a multi-use path and dedicated sidewalk, to be built immediately north of the existing bridge.