It seems American bridges get all the press, but up here in Canada we’ve got a few noteworthy bridges of our own. From the elevated trestles of the Lethbridge Viaduct to the monumental engineering achievement of the Confederation Bridge, it’s time to celebrate seven of the most amazing bridges this country has to offer.
This privately owned bridge, which connects Windsor to Detroit, Michigan, is North America’s busiest border crossing in terms of trade volume, with more than 25 percent of all goods moving between Canada and the U.S. crossing over it. It carries between 60 and 70 percent of all truck traffic in the region. Completed in 1929 with a total length of 2,286 metres, it (briefly) had the longest suspended central span in the world until it was surpassed by New York’s George Washington Bridge in 1931.
This simple suspension bridge, which crosses the Capilano River, stands 70 metres high and spans 140 metres. Originally built of hemp rope and cedar planks in 1889, it was replaced with a wire cable bridge in 1903 and completely rebuilt in 1956. Today, the Capilano Suspension Bridge boasts more than 800,000 visitors annually, and has served as a set for television series including MacGyver and Sliders.
With 160,000 daily crossings, this connection linking Montreal boroughs Verdun and Le Sud-Ouest with Brossard is the busiest in Canada. First opened in 1962, the bridge spans almost six kilometres over the Saint Lawrence Seaway and the Saint Lawrence River. But structural problems in the last few years due to weather-related deterioration have led to the planning a replacement bridge, with a projected completion date of 2018.
Familiarly known as the “Fixed Link,” the Confederation Bridge provides an alternative to the ferry service across the Northumberland Strait, which separates Prince Edward Island from the mainland of New Brunswick. Completed in 1997, most of the bridge is 40 metres above water, with a section above 60 metres to accommodate ship traffic. The fixed crossing actually required a constitutional amendment (both for its construction and in order to implement tolls) to be secured. Currently, drivers must pay a $45 toll to leave PEI.
Alberta boasts a lot of long, high railroad bridges, but none match the Lethbridge Viaduct—the longest and highest in North America. At 1,624 metres long and 95.7 metres high, it’s the longest steel rail trestle in the world. Built in 1908 and 1909, it’s still in use and is known locally as the High Level Bridge.
Akin to San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge in terms of pure iconic status, Vancouver’s Lions Gate Bridge is a National Historic Site. Good thing, too—since it almost didn’t get built. Although a bridge linking the City of Vancouver to its northern shore was first discussed in 1890, it took until 1938 to overcome objections that a bridge over the first narrows of Burrard Inlet wouldn’t irreparably ruin Stanley Park. Now a widely recognized symbol, the bridge is named for two mountain peaks visible to northbound traffic.
Still the world’s longest cantilever bridge, with a span of 987 metres, the Quebec Bridge was completed in 1919, after collapsing twice during construction. Its first failure, in 1907, is still considered the world’s worst bridge construction disaster, with 75 of 86 workers killed and the rest injured when the bridge’s south arm and part of its central section collapsed into the Saint Lawrence River. The bridge, which is the southernmost crossing on the Saint Lawrence, is now a National Historic Site.