September 1, 2021

Vancouver 1954: Opening of the “Concrete Carpet”, the Granville Street Bridge

Gordon has written about the  changes being proposed for the Granville Bridge in  Viewpoint Vancouver. But did you know that in 1954 when this bridge was built that it was planned to serve “generations to come?” Take a step back seven decades.

 

In January 1954 Vancouver Sun reporter Gerry Pratt was allowed to drive over the bridge before it was opened. And don’t think road and traffic right to “hurriedness” and avoiding  “congestion” is a new phenomena: Mr. Pratt headlined his article on the drive in the newspaper as “Broadway to Pacific in 90 Seconds”.

Saying he had “made history  at 30 miles an hour”  Mr. Pratt was pretty excited and may have exaggerated the experience just a wee bit.  He described his trip over the 16 million dollar new bridge “concrete carpet ” as “almost as exciting as one would imagine a rocket ride to the moon.”

The new bridge replaced the old Granville Bridge which had less lanes and which was slower: Mr. Pratt said the same  90 second trip took six minutes on the old bridge. That’s a photo below of the journalist driving on the new “concrete carpet” downtown. Look at how the mountains framed the view in this photo.

Driving north on the bridge to downtown Vancouver. Mr. Pratt writes “Driving from there up the south side of the bridge toward downtown Vancouver is one of the biggest thrills this new span can offer. Here the eight lanes stretch up and up in front of you until they form a crest in the sky just above the North Shore Mountains”.

As you drive over the crest of the bridge Mr. Pratt effuses: “this crest falls away like a blind rolling down, revealing the snow-capped mountains, then the top of Hotel Vancouver, the Vancouver block, and the rest of downtown area”.

The bridge was officially opened in February 1954 by Mayor Fred Hume and dignitaries. This  included one of the bridge construction workman who cut the ribbon but forgot his well practiced lines “We built the bridge and we are proud of it”. Thankfully he had previously rehearsed his lines for the media, so they could report what it was he was supposed to have said. There was an “old” car that was first in line to cross the bridge after the official opening, carrying some of the ‘pioneers’ who were in Vancouver when the 1909 drawbridge was originally built at this location.

This YouTube video below documents how the bridge was built, and had an image of the all male City of Vancouver Engineering staff that were reviewing the “design” of the bridge. It appears the entire bridge was painted by hand, and you can see the “congestion” of vehicles that was purportedly  lessened by the bridge being opened.

 

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Comments

  1. With the so call ” granville connector ” it will take up to two extra minutes to travel from Broadway to Pacific. The operating costs for our buses will have to be increased by few millions dollars per year, is this really progress? Many other cities have separate bridges for pedestrians and cyclists.

    1. A new bridge will cost $1b. That’s real. Transit delays will cost nothing. The cost of a passenger’s time is zero, so 2 minutes of extra time (during a 30-minute peak period, if at that) has no value. And do you think bus drivers are getting paid overtime to compensate for the forecast 2-minute delay? They are not. Their operation costs remain the same. Extra fuel, wear, and maintenance costs are negligible. In every universe, this connector is the most cost effective choice.

  2. I like these old videos. It’s like a trip to a museum to see the type of propaganda people used to respond to. The music alone is great. And the close ups of the engineers; so many purposeful men saying vitally important things. Critically relevant men whose instructions we’d be wise to heed.

    The moral panic over “congestion” is as old as motor vehicle traffic itself. The thing that shakes my head is that attitudes towards the non-problem of occasionally slow traffic have not changed in 100 years. Councils and engineers still consider it our species’ most urgent dilemma.

  3. The good thing about building an overcapacity bridge, is that they can easily rededicate space to pedestrians and cyclists without negative impacts.

    1. It will cost our bus system an extra few millions every year as up to two extra minutes will be needed each way with the new Granville Connector. Other cities have built separate Bridges for pedestrians and cyclists.

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