Bridges of Vancouver

As a city known for its breath-taking mixture of pristine peaks, lush foliage and flowing rivers and creeks; Vancouver requires a number of bridges to connect everything together. There are eight significant bridges in Vancouver, not including the Capilano suspension bridge. Three of the bridges cross over the Fraser River that borders Vancouver on the south-side, another three cross False Creek connecting downtown Vancouver to the rest of the city, and two extend over the Burrard Inlet to link downtown Vancouver to the North Shore. This article reveals the history behind the prominent Lions Gate and Second Narrows bridges and introduces the Golden Ears Bridge, the newest addition to Greater Vancouver’s bridges.

Lions Gate Bridge

The Lions Gate Bridge, also known as the First Narrows Bridge, is a suspension bridge that crosses the Burrard Inlet and connects downtown Vancouver (City of Vancouver) with the municipalities of the North Shore – the Cities of North Vancouver and West Vancouver. The bridge was entitled “Lions Gate” after the Lions, a pair of mountain peaks in North Vancouver. The bridge includes three reversible lanes, each containing overhead lane signals to indicate the direction of traffic.

Discussion regarding construction of the Lions Gate began in 1890, when many bridge builders saw the inevitability of a bridge that would extend across the first narrows. There was much debate on whether the bridge should be built; many argued that it would spoil Stanley Park, interfere with the busy seaport or take toll revenue away from the Second Narrows Bridge. However, others thought it was essential to expanding development on the North Shore and that many of the arguments against it could be overcome. It was not until 1933 that a majority vote for the bridge construction was obtained. Alfred James Towle Taylor, a member of the proposal team owned the provincial franchise to construct the viaduct; however, he did not have the funds to purchase the large sections of land in North and West Vancouver that were needed. Fortunately he was able to convince the Guinness family (of the well-known Irish beer) to invest in the project and fund the land that was needed.

The bridge was designed by the Montreal company Monsarrat and Pratley and although it was first built with just two-lanes, it was later repainted into three lanes to accommodate increased traffic flow. Since its manufacture, the Lions Gate has been upgraded by the City of Vancouver to increase its longevity and to accommodate other forms of transportation such as bikers and pedestrians.

Second Narrows Bridge/Iron Workers Memorial

The Second Narrows Bridge is a vertical lift railway bridge that crosses what is known as the second narrowing of the Burrard Inlet. It was the first bridge to connect communities of Vancouver with those of the North Shore. Talks surrounding the construction of the Second Narrows dates back to the days of the Klondike Gold Rush where a number of railway companies were interested in building a railway from Vancouver to the Dawson gold fields. Although many attempts were made to initiate construction, many problems arose: the North Shore needed to be more developed, companies became bankrupt and could not fund the project and the onset of World War I had the government’s focus on construction diverted.

The bridge was eventually built in 1925 by John Stewart and Northern Construction, it started with just a car deck but was able to also accommodate trains in 1926. After being out of service for 4 years and hit by ships on numerous occasions, the provincial government purchased the bridge in 1933 and installed a lift section of the deck. In the 1960s, a brand new much bigger and higher six lane Second Narrows Bridge was built alongside the original structure, the original bridge was thus transformed entirely for rail use. In 1994, the new bridge was renamed to the Iron Workers Memorial Second Narrows Crossing to pay respect to those who died in accidents during its construction.

Golden Ears Bridge

Although the Golden Ears Bridge is not connected directly to the city of Vancouver, it is the newest bridge to be built in the Lower Mainland of B.C. and is the longest extradosed bridge in North America. As a project of Translink, the South Coast British Columbia Transportation Authority, the six-lane bridge spans over the Fraser River and connects the municipalities on the south side of Langley and Surrey with the north side of Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows. It was officially open for traffic on June 16, 2009.

Named after the “Golden Ears” twin mountain peaks that overlook the bridge site from north of the Fraser River, the bridge is also considered the most significant improvement to the Greater Vancouver road system since the construction of the Alex Fraser Bridge in 1986. Studies have indicated that the Golden Ears bridge will have immense long-term effects in the area, improving travel times and stimulating economic activity.