Happy 101st birthday Arlington Bridge !
I’ve always had a fascination with the Arlington Bridge. As a kid living in the north end of the city it made for what seemed like a life-sized fairground ride going up the steep approach, looking out over the city before plummeting down again.
It isn’t a glorious history. In fact, the Troubled Lady has been controversial at every stage in its life. Despite not being the right bridge for the project and the source of scorn since before it opened, it still stands in defiance of its critics.
Back when the bridge first appeared as a line on the map of city planners connecting Brown and Brant Streets it sparked debate. Its construction went over budget and opened months later than scheduled. On February 5, 1912 there was no official opening ceremony and the “bridge of lights ” plan to allow it to be seen from across the city was never spoken of again.
The need for continuous repairs starting soon after it opened further added to its derision. The supposed Nile origin (which I think is more than just urban legend) was brought up not as a romantic tale but as an example of why it didn’t work: the city cheaped out and bought “off the rack” from the lowest bidder.
In the end, the bridge failed to do what it was intended: be the city’s second streetcar link to the North End. Due to safety concerns that led to court action on the street railwaymen’s union not a single streetcar ever passed over it.
Still, the bridge has persevered. Though many have called for its demise at various points over the century, it has outlasted all of its contemporaries except for the Redwood Bridge. It has seen three neighbouring Salter Street Bridges and the first Disraeli Bridge, the city’s big leap into the modern era of big bridges, have had barely half the life span.
Later this year the city will be releasing a report looking at the traffic options for that section of the city. A key recommendation will be what to do with the Arlington Bridge. The safe money says that it will finally be decommissioned but don’t count it out just yet.
Back in 2011 I did a four part history of the Arlington Bridge spanning, (pun intended) from its planning stage to present-day. I even take a stab at researching the possible Nile River connection. You can check it out starting here.