The Lions Gate Bridge spans the first narrows in Burrard Inlet, connects Vancouver to the North Shore, and is one of the most iconic structures in the city. Built by the Guinness family to encourage development after they bought the side of a West Vancouver mountain, the suspension bridge was tolled from the time it opened in 1938 until 1963.
It cost 25 cents for cars and five cents for pedestrians.
By the early 1990s, the bridge was in serious need of an upgrade or replacement and the City narrowed down the options to three proposals. One was to build a tunnel; another to twin the bridge and double the number of lanes; and the third was to double-deck the existing three-lane bridge.
Last year, Daien Ide, reference historian at the North Vancouver Museum and Archives was sitting at her desk when she got a tip. A model of the proposed twinned bridge had turned up at the Burnaby Hospice Thrift Store on Kingsway with a $200 price tag.
A local had saved the model after finding it tossed out in an alley behind his house a couple of decades earlier. For whatever reason, he decided it needed rehoming, and gave it to the thrift shop.
The scaled model is clearly identified with the name of the architectural firm—Safdie Architects. In Canada, Moshe Safdie is a highly regarded architect, known for the Expo 67 Habitat in Montreal, the National Gallery in Ottawa, the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, and our very own Vancouver Public Library.
In 1994, Safdie partnered with engineering firm SNC Lavalin, and the Squamish Nation, which owned the land on the north end of the bridge.
They wanted to build an identical bridge to the east of the original structure that would carry northbound traffic, while the original bridge would carry vehicles south into Stanley Park. The new bridge would be tolled, and judging by the model, cut a chunk out of Stanley Park.
As we now know, the Province chose the cheapest and least controversial option, electing to widen the three-lane existing bridge and replace the main bridge deck.
In 2005, the Lions Gate Bridge was designated a National Historic Site of Canada.
Our traffic problems persist.
Huge thanks to the NVMA’s Nancy Kirkpatrick for giving me the idea for the blog and for supplying research materials.
© All rights reserved. Unless otherwise indicated, all blog content copyright Eve Lazarus.