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Capilano Bridge

Capilano Bridge

Primary Photographer(s): Michael Roberts

Bridge Documented: September 1, 2010

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Facility Carried / Feature Intersected
Marine Drive (Highway 99 and 1A) Over Capilano River
West Vancouver: Greater Vancouver District, British Columbia: Canada
Construction Date and Builder / Engineer
1929 By Builder/Contractor: Western Bridge Company of Vancouver, British Columbia and Engineer/Design: A. L. Carruthers
Rehabilitation Date
Not Available or Not Applicable
Main Span Length
250.0 Feet (76.2 Meters)
Structure Length
Not Available
Roadway Width
Not Available
2 Main Span(s)
Inventory Number
Not Applicable

Historic Significance Rating (HSR)
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Bridge Documentation

This bridge no longer exists!

View A Detailed Historical Background and Fact Sheet By Michael Roberts, P.Eng.

This heritage bridge was demolished and replaced!

About This Bridge

Be sure to view the detailed historical background and fact sheet listed above for the full story on this heritage bridge and its significance. The bridge is unusual because although one span is newer than the other, the newer span was not a replacement for a previous truss span, but rather, floodwaters washed out an approach to the bridge, which demonstrated the need to add a span to the bridge and thus create a longer bridge. The original span is a Pennsylvania through truss, while the newer span is a Parker through truss. The bridge is historically and technologically significant on a provincial level because the original span of the bridge was the longest in British Columbia when completed. The bridge is also noteworthy for being as bridge with heritage value in the Greater Vancouver area. Very few large cities in North America have so many bridges and so many sizable river crossings, yet so few bridges with heritage value. Worse, those few heritage bridges which do remain are threatened with demolition, including the Capilano Bridge. Finally, the Capilano Bridge as a riveted truss bridge is a beautiful structure, with its trusses creating a complex geometric art that is not found in modern bridges. The extensive use of built-up riveted beams (in place of modern rolled i-beams) in the truss that contain v-lacing, lattice only further add to the geometric art of the bridge, making it even more aesthetically pleasing than modern truss bridges might be.

Preservation: Extremely Feasible Yet Demolition Still Planned

As part of the project to replace this bridge, the existing bridge was moved off of its substructure onto a new substructure located next to the original location. The purpose of this was for the heritage bridge to act as a temporary bridge while the new bridge would be constructed in the original location of the bridge. This being the case, logic would suggest that the heritage bridge would simply be left in this new location to serve as an iconic crossing for non-motorized traffic. Leaving a heritage bridge standing on a different alignment next to a replacement bridge is a common preservation solution in other provinces such as Saskatchewan and also in several states in the United States. However, the plan is actually to demolish this heritage bridge after the new bridge is complete! This planned demolition is nothing more than a costly waste of heritage and materials. Clearly, if the bridge has already been moved to a new location, it is obvious there is room for the heritage bridge and the new bridge to stand together next to each other. HistoricBridges.org urges British Columbia to have a change of heart and leave this heritage bridge standing next to its replacement, and help ensure that the Greater Vancouver area does not continue along a path to becoming a region without a single heritage bridge.

The current decision to demolish this heritage bridge is a clear display of how broken both surface transportation and historic preservation policy truly is in Canada, a reflection of similar problems in the neighboring United States. This policy is one of wastefulness, and goes against the growing interest in a culture of sustainability and renewal. Since a new bridge is under construction on a new alignment, the historic bridge is not in the way of anything. There is absolutely no reason or point to waste money demolishing this bridge!

What should be done instead? The bridge is currently safe for vehicular traffic and has no extremely serious problems, and as such, the bridge could likely stand next to its replacement either for pedestrian use or completely abandoned as a historic relic, for decades to come even without preservation work done on it. As such, the bridge should be left standing next to its replacement. The money that would have been used to demolish the bridge could be used to make repairs to the worst conditions on the bridge, and perhaps build up the temporary substructure on which the bridge sits to make it more permanent.

Once vehicular traffic is taken off the bridge, it can be amazing how long a bridge will stay standing with no further work done to it. A serious analysis of this is not being considered. Further, many years down the road when metal truss bridges become even more rare and public awareness increases, the opportunity for a full restoration of the bridge might then present itself, which would eliminate that risk of collapse in the future. Further, if after 20+ years the bridge does show signs of sudden collapse, and nobody wants to preserve it, the bridge can be removed at that time. Why make a hasty decision now? Instead, sustainability, history, and alternative transportation should be given a chance by leaving this heritage bridge standing next to its replacement to serve as a non-motorized crossing.


Photo Galleries and Videos: Capilano Bridge


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Maps and Links: Capilano Bridge

This historic bridge has been demolished. This map is shown for reference purposes only.

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