Thousands of people lined the Broadway Bridge in Saskatoon Sunday morning to watch as explosive charges on the old Traffic Bridge in Saskatoon blew off two of its sections. 

The first phase of the Traffic Bridge's demolition started with a bang shortly after 9 a.m. CST.

The bridge, which has been closed since 2010, is over 100 years old.

The tear-down of the structure will continue through the winter, with a new bridge set for completion in 2018. The city says construction is expected to begin this summer, once debris from the demolished bridge is collected from the South Saskatchewan River.

Three minutes before the blast, a series of short sirens signalled that the explosive charges were ready to detonate.

Saskatoon - Traffic Bridge - Explosion

Explosive charges ignite and separate two sections of the Saskatoon Traffic Bridge from its piers. (Albert Couillard/Radio-Canada)

The blast was a quick, but loud one. The sound reverberated throughout the downtown area. 

The bridge's two southern sections were immediately separated from its piers, and came crashing down onto the temporary berm built below the bridge.

The impact sent out a huge plume of smoke that slowly dissipated.

The two bridge sections will eventually be hauled away for recycling.

Saskatoon - traffic bridge - explosion

Explosive charges separate two sections of the Traffic Bridge in Saskatoon from its piers. (Albert Couillard/Radio-Canada)

Viewing from Broadway Bridge

A large mass of people gathered on the city's Broadway Bridge to take in the spectacle.

By 8:50 a.m., families, kids and a few pet dogs waited eagerly. The west sidewalk of the bridge was crammed with people bundled tightly in the biting cold: –23 C that felt like –30 in the wind.

People hoping for a good vantage point stood on the concrete barrier separating the roadway from the sidewalk.

Saskatoon - Traffic Bridge - Explosion

The two southern sections of Saskatoon's Traffic Bridge fall onto a berm after they were separated from the bridge's piers using explosive charges. (Albert Couillard/Radio-Canada)

Along with the spectators, there were about a dozen videographers and photographers with their lenses trained on the demolition site, hoping to record a piece of the city's history.

Long history

The Traffic Bridge, also known as the Victoria Bridge, was closed in August 2010 due to public safety concerns.

It opened on Oct. 10, 1907 when it became Saskatoon's first bridge for foot and vehicle traffic. According to city notes on the history of the bridge, it was built at the insistence of the people of what was then a separate community — Nutana — who wanted a better way across the river than the existing ferry.

The promise of the bridge led to Nutana's agreement to join with the west side communities of Saskatoon and Riversdale to form the City of Saskatoon in 1906.

The bridge was built at the cost of $106,000 and was paid for by the provincial government.

Saskatoon - Traffic Bridge - explosion

A plume of smoke shoots out from the berm after Saskatoon's Traffic Bridge falls onto it. (Albert Couillard/Radio-Canada)