Thursday, October 18, 2012


The destruction of Saskatoon's historic Traffic Bridge hit full stride this morning. And though the bridge may be going, the politics about it continue. 

The bridge, opened in 1907, was Saskatoon's first bridge for horses, wagons, pedestrians, and automobiles. It was closed in 2010, after suffering from neglect for decades. 

The demolition began earlier this month, though preliminary work turned last week to stripping the wood and asphalt deck off the south end. 

Deck half cleared, exposing structural supports and trolly traces.
Also visible are temporary supports placed below the main structure.

Once the deck had been completely removed, the temporary supports below the bridge were removed, and the foundation at the south end of the bridge was pulled out, allowing that end of the section to collapse.

Going, going, . . .


After that, an excavator's giant "lobster claw" chewed the heavy steel on the bridge apart, like it was cutting through tin. 

But this is neither the end of the bridge, nor the politics surrounding it. 

The Traffic Bridge was central to the formation of the City, uniting Nutana and Riversdale with Saskatoon. One of the conditions on which Nutana insisted was that a bridge be built connecting the two sides of the river. This would replace the unreliable ferry which was being used at the time.

The portion of the bridge which is being demolished now is only one of five spans. The cost of demolishing this part is $500,000. But the other four spans are over water, meaning the challenge will be much greater. You cannot just let the steel fall into the river. Especially with all its lead-based paint.

And the kind of replacement may still be debatable. When City Council asked citizens for their input, the top priority was for a pedestrian and cycling link. Council, led by Mayor Don Atcheson, simply ignored that recommendation, and went on to other things. By a vote of 8 - 3, Council decided on a multi-use structure, including cars, bicycles, and pedestrians. Atcheson still thinks that was the right decision, even though Council has yet to find the $30 million required.

Mayoral challenger Tom Wolfe has other ideas. He says Council's action is a sign of its mistrust of public opinion. He says because Council ignored the outcome of the citizen consultation, he thinks the mater is open for review. After all, if Council didn't want a bycicle-pedestrian bridge, why did it not say so at the beginning of the consultation? Moreover, Wolfe says, when the new south bridge opens, likely this fall, that structure will relieve congestion on the existing bridges.

The demolition of the Traffic Bridge will continue, with no replacement in sight. And the nature of the replacement may get a lot more discussion. 


Irene said...

It seems to me that if that poll was a true representation of the people's wishes, then that is what should be done. It sounds very reasonable to me. xox

DJan said...

I guess politics are the same everywhere. But you're right, Bear: this seems to have become a political football. And nobody is listening to the users.

Genie -- Paris and Beyond said...

There is a report that indicates the bridges all over the US are in dire need of repair or replacement. There is usually not an easy solution that will preserve history, meet the current needs (if that can even be determined), and will be affordable (whatever that means!)

I took a "bear" shot when I was in Paris with Holly and will send to you.


lotta joy said...

We've been excited about some of the improvements coming in our area. They will be fully accomplished in 6 years....then we added 6 years to our ages....we're NOT so excited now. lol

A Lady's Life said...

I think they should build around it or next to it or over it or under it lol
I dont like demolition.Bridges might not be good for cars but they can be used for other things and be also maintained.
You never know when even an old bridge can be of use.
In Montreal the bridges are also falling apart.
Quite dangerous.

Diana said...

I think it should get more discussion, more input from the citizens as well. Something this big that needs to last many years shouldn't be decided on to quickly. I think more input would be brought into the project! Love Di ♥

Rosaria Williams said...

The city is picking up the tab? That's quite a bite, and hard on the locals, especially in hard economic times. Couldn't it be reinforced, braced, retrofitted, something other than tearing it all down and leaving people in the lurch until the next bridge is built.

Rob-bear said...

® Irene: It seems reasonable, indeed. But because the majority on Council seem to have their brains firmly planted in the 1960s, their course of action is not surprising. Sadly.

® DJan: Political football, indeed. This was/is an opportunity to do what invited guests — people are well known urban planners — have told us two years in a row. On top of what local planners have been telling us.
That makes not a jot of difference with the politicians. As I said, Council's majority seems to be mentally stuck in the 1960s, when car was king.

® Genie: There is an irony in this. A train bridge at the south end of the city bas built about the same time as the Traffic Bridge. It is in perfectly good repair. Of course, it received regular maintenance.
As one local put it, it is good that the Eiffel Tower is not in our city.

® lotta joy: Strange; I thought you were getting younger now that you've moved to Floruba, er, um Florida. Still, six years is six years. Before or after H**l freezes over.

® A Lady's Life: Yes, there are options, if one wants to see them.
And I wonder what connection there might be between the construction scandal now being exposed in Montéral, and the quality of the bridges.

Rob-bear said...

® Diana: You could think, indeed. But such is not the case.
BTW, how is your left hand/wrist post surgery?

® Rosaria: Sadly, the bridge has basically condemned. The engineers say it is just plain unsafe. And the amount it would take to fix the bridge would be about as much as a new one.
The price of willful ignorance and inaction for too many years.

cheshire wife said...

It seems crazy to take the bridge away before it has been replaced.

Can you skate across the river in the winter?

ReformingGeek said...

Ugh. Politics are a pain. It's all about who is the biggest Bear!

About Last Weekend said...

This is a bit like the demolition of the Bay Bridge to build the new one - why don't they let pedestrians and cyclists use the old one and just erect a sign that says: danger use at your own risk."

Janie Junebug said...

I'm grateful the neglected bridge didn't collapse on its own with people on it. I hope the replacement turns out well and is pleasing to the folks of the town.

Janie Junebug

Golden Eagle said...

So often politics is about the politicians . . . not the people it will actually affect.

susan said...

Maybe the city fathers could contact the company who designed this novel bridge for Paris.

betty said...

It is a difficult situation; you don't want an unsafe bridge, yet you do want the ability to connect one part to another. It is sad there is no replacement in site and people will have to depend on that unreliable ferry in the meantime.


Chatty Crone said...

I hate to hear of the loss of something that old - but I guess it has to be. Seems like such an expensive project to me - with no answers yet. Have a good day.

Inger said...

It's sad to see old things go. I take it there was no way to make the bridge safe? Or was it all about politics. It seems extremely expensive.

Unknown said...

Wow! The cost is 500,000$? That's only the part? I'm looking forward for the outcome. Good day to you.

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Anita said...

Did you take those pictures?!

It's always sad to see a bit of history go. I hope the aftermath will not linger.

Rob-bear said...

® Cheshire Wife: Tearing a bridge down after a new one is built? Far too logical!

Truth is, though, the city plans to use the existing concrete piers for the new bridge. The piers are apparently quite sturdy, after 100 years.

® ReformingGeek: Sadly, the Mayor Bear of our city is just slightly larger than this Bear. So there you have it.

® About Last Weekend: Jody, you are simply way too reasonable to live in this city!

® Janie Junebug: The bookies are taking bets now: will new new bridge be built before or after H**l freezes over? I'm not sure which way to bet, so I won't.

® The Golden Eagle: Very wise observation, Eagle. Sadly true, on many occasions.

Rob-bear said...

® susan: Yes, we've seen pictures of that bridge. They seem fascinating.
But our city is far too sensible for Parisian nonsense!

® that corgi :): Actually Betty, the ferry is long gone (it went after the bridge was built 100 years ago). And we have two other bridges quite close by. That is the beauty of putting up a bicycle and pedestrian bridge. It takes people into our River Landing waterfront area, which has a huge emphasis on bicycle and pedestrian traffic.
But again, that's too logical for most on City Council.

® Chatty Crone: As a city, we are not very good in our treatment of our "built heritage." Council it quite happy to allow the demolition of historic buildings, and similar structures, in the name of "progress."

® Inger: Sadly, the bridge suffered too much neglect over too many years, and would cost a fortune to fix. So it sits unused, with no good idea of what to do with it.

® siobe sia: Right, demolition cost half a million dollars. And that's just the start!

® Anita: Yes, I took all those pictures. Those are only some of the shots, but they are probably the best ones. The workers are getting the place cleaned up, a little bit at a time.