The History of our Bridges
Saskatoon is "The City of Bridges" and appropriately named due to the eight structures that span the South Saskatchewan River. These bridges are a vital part of the fabric of the community, and of the history of Saskatoon.
From the railway bridges that helped make Saskatoon the central economic hub of the province, to the first traffic bridge that served as catalyst to the formation of the city, the building of each bridge echoed the growth of Saskatoon. To this day they continue to move both people and the economy of the city forward, and form the heart of "The City of Bridges".
The City’s bridge and structure inventory has an estimated replacement value of approximately $916 million. The City maintains 80 Bridges and Structures, which consist of the following;
- 8 Bridges (the new Traffic Bridge and Chief Mistawasis Bridge are maintained by Graham Commuter Partners)
- 49 Overpasses
- 24 Pedestrian Crossings
- 28 km of Sound Attenuation Walls
The City’s Bridges and Structures preservation program ensures all bridges and structures remain safe, structurally sound and are managed implementing asset management process to provide more effective decision making, better allocation of financial resources, and reduced frequency and duration of traffic interruption.
The Bridges and Structures Program Activities include:
- Safety Inspections
- Consultant Bridge Inspections
- Washing and Sealing
- Deck testing
- Minor Maintenance
- Major Rehabilitations
- Develop and maintain load ratings
Chief Mistawasis Bridge
Chief Mistawasis Bridge opened on October 2, 2018 and is one of two that was built under the Bridging to Tomorrow Project. It connects the North Industrial area with neighbourhoods on Saskatoon's east side. The Chief Mistawasis Bridge is expected to accommodate 14,600 to 21,700 vehicles per day and 40,000 per day when the city's population hits 300,000. The bridge features a two-metre-wide bikeway on the north side and a 3.5-metre multi-use pathway on the south side at the same level as the roadway. The bridge will be operated and maintained by Graham Commuter Partners for three decades.
The three orders of government funded the $238.8 million Bridging to Tomorrow Project which includes Chief Mistawasis Bridge, McOrmond Drive and Central Avenue extensions, and the Traffic Bridge. The Government of Canada is contributing up to 25 per cent of eligible costs, the Government of Saskatchewan is contributing $50 million toward the Chief Mistawasis Bridge, and the City is funding the remainder.
The original Traffic Bridge opened on October 10, 1907. Saskatoon's first bridge specifically designed for foot and vehicle traffic, it was built at the insistence of the people of Nutana, who needed a safe and reliable way for vehicles, pedestrians and freight to cross the river. The existing river ferry was anything but reliable, and the only other way across was the railway bridge, which for foot traffic was anything but safe! The promise of this bridge was key to Nutana's agreement to join with the west side communities of Saskatoon and Riversdale in forming the City of Saskatoon in 1906. It was built at the cost of $106,000 and was paid for by the provincial government.
On June 7, 1908, the Traffic Bridge was the site of Saskatoon's only "maritime disaster", when the steamship S.S. City of Medicine Hat crashed broadside into one of its concrete piers and sank.
From 1913-1933, streetcars of the Saskatoon Municipal Railway crossed this bridge. The Traffic Bridge is called a "through-truss" bridge (meaning that traffic travels through the trusses) and is 294 metres (964 feet) long. Although it has been known by many names over its long history, it is most correctly known by its original name: the "Traffic Bridge".
The Traffic Bridge was closed in August 2010 due to public safety concerns as a result of advance deterioration of critical strutural elements. Following extensive public consultations and a Needs Assessment and Functional Planning Study conducted on the existing Traffic Bridge, a decision was made by City Council to replace the existing bridge with a modern steel truss bridge with multi-use pathways on either side. On January 10, 2016, thousands of people gathered on the Broadway Bridge to watch the two south spans of the old bridge come down with explosives. On February 7, 2016, a portion of the far north span of the old bridge was also demolished with explosives.
The new Traffic Bridge opened on October 2, 2018. It looks similar to the old bridge, but is slightly wider and taller to accommodate wider traffic lanes, wider pathways on both sides, and overhead clearance for emergency vehicles. The new Traffic Bridge includes two 3.7 m wide traffic lanes and two 3.0 m multiuse pathways. There is also direct pathway connections to Rotary Park. Average traffic volumes are estimated to approach 11,000 vehicles per day, with capacity to accommodate over 20,000 vehicles per day.
The University Bridge officially opened on November 15, 1916. A notable feature of its design is the descending size of its arches, which were described as "like a stone skipping across water". It was built to link Sutherland and the University of Saskatchewan with the central part of the city across the river.
Begun in 1913, construction of the bridge was delayed when the original contractor went bankrupt. It was completed by the provincial government with the City of Saskatoon paying one-third of the $520,000 cost. Although a double line of streetcar track was laid over the University Bridge when it was built, it was never used and the rails were removed in 1947.
Despite being a part of Saskatoon for most of the city's history, the University Bridge was not formally named until January 1, 2006. It is 378 metres (1240 feet) long, with a 62-foot-wide road bed containing two vehicle lanes and two side walkways. It slopes down at a 3% gradient from the east to the west end.
Spadina Crescent Bridge
The concrete bridge across the ravine on Spadina Crescent was built in 1930 to replace an earlier wooden structure. In 1933, a series of small ponds were dug in the ravine as part of a relief work project aimed at beautifying "Central Park", as it was then known. The system of ponds was extended in the 1950s, and along with the charming little bridge, created "an oasis of calm and beauty" in the heart of the city. The pond system has since been filled in.
Built during the Great Depression, the Spadina Crescent Bridge remains unknown to most people, yet thousands of cars pass over it daily.
The Broadway Bridge was designed by engineers from the University of Saskatchewan, and was built by the City in partnership with the federal and provincial governments as a "make work project" during the Great Depression. It was finished in just 11 months, opening on November 11, 1932. A total of 1,593 men worked around the clock to build it.
In 1933, the streetcar lines of the Saskatoon Municipal Railway were re-routed so as to cross the river on the Broadway Bridge rather than on the much-narrower Traffic Bridge as they had originally done.
The Broadway Bridge is 355 metres (1164 feet) long. With a 4% grade, it is Saskatoon's steepest bridge. The total cost at the time of construction was $850,000.
Senator Sidney L. Buckwold Bridge
The Senator Sidney L. Buckwold Bridge officially opened on October 28, 1966. Originally named for the Idylwyld Freeway—of which it forms a part—the bridge was re-named in 2001 in honour of Sid Buckwold, who was Mayor of Saskatoon when it was built. It is located on the site of Saskatoon's first bridge, the Qu'Appelle, Long Lake and Saskatchewan railway bridge that was originally built in 1890 as part of the line connecting Regina and Prince Albert. The railway bridge was demolished in 1964 as part of the rail line relocation project that cleared the way for the Idylwyld Freeway and the downtown Midtown Plaza development.
Built at a cost of $1.5 million, the bridge is 183 metres (600 feet) long, and is located at the narrowest point on the river within Saskatoon.
Circle Drive Bridge
This steel girder bridge was officially opened on July 1st, 1983 as part of Saskatoon's "Circle Drive" bypass system. It links the city's newer northern areas with the south and east side, allowing traffic to bypass downtown. It was originally four lanes wide with an opening down the centre where two or more lanes might be added in the future. In 2006 a bridge expansion project began that would convert the outer pedestrian walkways to traffic lanes, and build a pedestrian walkway down the centre. The project was finished in 2007.
The bridge deck is 275 metres (902 feet) long and is curved so as to connect to the northern extension of Circle Drive on the west side. The total cost at the time of construction was $11.8 million dollars.
Circle Drive South Bridge
Officially open to drivers on July 31, 2013 the Circle Drive South Bridge is a six-lane bridge that includes five new interchanges, pedestrian and cyclist facilities and ten kilometres of freeway/express from Clarence Avenue to Clancy Drive. One of the primary benefits is the shorter commuting distances for traffic and a 35% reduction in traffic using the Idylwyld Bridge at afternoon rush hour.
At the gime, construction of the bridge was the largest single project in the City’s history at an estimated cost of $300 million. Costs were shared between the City of Saskatoon, the Province of Saskatchewan, and the Government of Canada.
Saskatoon's Railway bridges are not maintained by the City, but are still an important part of the city's history.
Canadian National Railway Bridge
This steel trestle bridge was completed in March of 1908 as part of the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway that connected Winnipeg and Edmonton. It was the third major railway line to run through Saskatoon and helped assure the city's position as the primary wholesale-retail distribution centre for central Saskatchewan. In 1923 the bridge became part of the Canadian National Railway.
Canadian Pacific Railway Bridge
This high steel trestle bridge opened on June 15, 1908. It is part of the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) trunk line between Winnipeg and Edmonton. This was the second major rail line routed through Saskatoon. Located on what was then the north edge of the city, the bridge linked the CPR's divisional yards at Sutherland with its station in downtown Saskatoon. It replaced a temporary wooden trestle bridge that had been constructed at the same location one year earlier.
The pedestrian walkway was added in 1909. Originally, the City of Saskatoon asked that the bridge be designed so as to allow a single lane of traffic to be added on each side later. These traffic lanes would have cost $50,000 more, however, and eventually the City decided to build the University Bridge instead.
The CPR Bridge is 341 metres (1120 feet) long.