Victoria residents have voted to replace the city's Johnson Street Bridge, a rare counterweight lift bridge. ((CBC))

Victoria residents have voted in favour of replacing the city's iconic blue bridge.

In a referendum Saturday they voted to borrow $50 million to replace the 86-year-old Johnson Street Bridge.

More than 16,000 residents voted in the referendum, with 60 per cent of the ballots in favour of building a new bridge.

Victoria Mayor Dean Fortin was happy with the voter turnout.

"You know, there's really engagement out there — people asking questions, people making sure that we wanted to do it right — so we're just grateful that we got such a good turnout out and we have a chance to hear from most of our citizens. It's wonderful."

The plan is to build a three-lane bridge, complete with bike lanes, a multi-use path and dedicated sidewalk, immediately north of the existing bridge.

At an estimated $77 million, the bridge replacement will be the largest capital project in the city's history.

The new bridge is scheduled to be completed by 2016.

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

City council voted to replace the aging structure at the north end of the Inner Harbour in April 2009, but the referendum was called after supporters of the old bridge gathered 10,000 signatures on a petition to save it.