New Traffic Bridge set to open 111 years after original
A history of Saskatoon's Traffic Bridge
Construction began on the Traffic Bridge.
The Traffic Bridge, also known as Victoria Bridge, officially opened on Oct. 10, 1907. It cost $106,000 and was paid for by the provincial government.
It was the city's first bridge specifically designed for foot and vehicle traffic and was built to connect the people of Nutana to downtown. According to the City of Saskatoon, the promise of the bridge was key to Nutana's agreement to join with the west side communities of Saskatoon and Riversdale in forming the city in 1906.
Before the bridge was built, the ferry and the railway bridge were the only ways to cross the river.
Local students commemorated the bridge's opening by singing a song composed for the occasion, according to the book From a little stone school by Lorraine Blashill.
"Yes, we are from Saskatoon,
The railway centre, famed far and near.
And proudly now we sing her praises,
To let her know that her friends are here."
The Traffic Bridge was the site of Saskatoon's only maritime disaster.
The steamship S.S. City of Medicine Hat crashed into one of the bridge's concrete piers and sank. All people on board were able to swim ashore.
The 130-foot steamship, which was powered by a single boiler, sat at the bottom of the river for 98 years, undiscovered. Although some wreckage was salvaged by people in the city and most now resides in local museums.
A streetcar derailed when it slid off ice-covered tracks trying to turn onto the bridge. The road, now Saskatchewan Crescent, was difficult for streetcars and other forms of transportation to manoeuvre.
Streetcars made their last trip across the Traffic Bridge and the lines were moved to the newly opened Broadway Bridge.
The southern end of the bridge was raised to reduce the slope and improve traffic flow. It also allowed Saskatchewan Crescent to pass underneath. At this time, the bridge carried about 10,000 vehicles per day.
The Traffic Bridge got a paint job. Soon after, the bridge began closing periodically for refurbishments and adjustments to make the road wider as vehicles changed.
The bridge was closed a few times after vehicles that were too heavy and large drove across.
2005 to 2006
The bridge was closed to vehicles because of corrosion and safety concerns, but it stayed open to pedestrians and bikes. After repairs, it was reopened in September 2006.
Two members of Saskatoon Fire Services found a large anchor in the river while dive rescue training in August. That spawned search and recovery dives to find more. It turned out to be the S.S City of Medicine Hat steamship.
A documentary was made about the discovery. The Last Steamship: The Search for the S.S. City of Medicine Hat premiered in 2010. Searchers did not find any significant wreckage.
The bridge was given decorative LED lights over the summer that could change colour and move in different patterns. The lights cost the city $462,000 and were controversial.
The community development manager at Meewasin Valley Authority, Doug Porteous, said the lights actually alerted the city to safety issues.
"I remember when they put those lights on there back in 2007. The person that did it from the city took a little flak because of the expense or something," Porteous said.
"But it was the joggers running across the bridge that were causing the light strands to kind of disconnect, from the shaking. That alerted the engineers to the fact there might be a problem there because that's where it first kind of came up that maybe we should be looking at this bridge to see if it's compromised with the weight and that kind of thing."
On Aug. 24 the Traffic Bridge was permanently closed due to public safety concerns stemming from advanced deterioration of critical structural elements.
Debate began almost immediately on the design and what a new bridge should be like, including the types of traffic that should be allowed. At a contentious September meeting city council narrowly ruled out banning motor vehicle traffic from any new version of the closed Traffic Bridge in a 6-5 vote.
At the meeting councillors decided on a list of four replacement options that all included automobile traffic.
- Fixing the existing bridge, at a cost of $27 million.
- Replacing it with a "conventionally designed structure" that would cost about $26 million.
- Replacing it with a modern steel truss bridge, similar in form to the Traffic Bridge, at a cost of about $25 million.
- Replacing it with an "architecturally significant" "signature" bridge, at a cost of $60 million.
Stantec archeologists resumed the search for the S.S City of Medicine Hat wreck while the city was drilling to test the pier of the Traffic Bridge. They found a wooden structure and a variety of artifacts including ceramic tableware, silverware, and personal items like boots and buttons dated to the turn of the 20th century.
This was also the year demolition first began on May 28. The pedestrian access ramp on the south side was removed and the first span was severed from the bridge.
The City of Saskatoon reached a deal with Graham Commuter Partners to build a new Traffic Bridge and a north commuter bridge as a P3 project.
A large bang echoed throughout the city as the Traffic Bridge fell onto the South Saskatchewan River. It was the final chapter in a turbulent history for the century-old structure.
The first phase of the Traffic Bridge's demolition started with an explosion that drew thousands of people who lined the Broadway Bridge. They watched as explosive charges on the old Traffic Bridge blew off two of its sections.
Construction of the new bridge continued throughout the year. It was on time and on budget. The cost of the new Traffic Bridge was estimated to cost about $41 million. It has two driving lanes and two three-metre wide pathways on each side of the bridge for pedestrians and cyclists.
By the end of the year all the steel trusses on the bridge were completed and the concrete portion of the bridge deck was installed.
In the first half of the year work on the Saskatchewan Crescent overpass and retaining walls in Rotary Park were completed.
At noon on Tuesday, Oct. 2, a Traffic Bridge Party will be held. No automobiles will be allowed until the next day. The festivities include a bridge walk of citizens and various groups that will begin on both ends of the bridge and meet in the middle. Everyone is invited to bring their own lunch or check out food trucks that will be set up on the deck.
Cultural entertainment and historical information about the project will be on display.
The Traffic Bridge opens to regular vehicular traffic on Wednesday, Oct. 3.