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Saskatoon’s original Traffic Bridge united 3 Prairie towns

Click to play video: 'New Saskatoon bridge connecting past with the present' New Saskatoon bridge connecting past with the present
WATCH ABOVE: The new Saskatoon Traffic Bridge looks to connect the city's past with its present – Oct 1, 2018

The new Saskatoon Traffic Bridge opens to vehicles on Wednesday, 111 years after its predecessor connected the towns of Riversdale, Nutana and Saskatoon.

Each community wanted to form a single city because as a group, they could borrow a larger amount of money than each one could individually, according to Don Kerr, author of Saskatoon: the First Half-Century.

READ MORE: Bikers, walkers to benefit from Victoria Avenue revamp to Traffic Bridge

“That was important if you wanted to put in sewer and water and have a streetcar and all those things,” Kerr said.

The communities amalgamated in 1906, but Nutana residents said they wouldn’t join without an agreement on a bridge connecting Nutana and Saskatoon.

With the Saskatchewan government footing the $106,000 bill, the Traffic Bridge opened in October 1907.

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Prior to the Traffic Bridge, also referred to as the Victoria Bridge, pedestrians could only cross the South Saskatchewan River via a treacherous CN rail bridge or an unreliable ferry.

“If you bought a horse on one side [and] put it on the ferry to go to the other side, it would cost more money to go across the ferry than it would cost to buy the horse or the cow,” Kerr said.

In June 1908, the steamship S.S. City of Medicine Hat collided with the Traffic Bridge and sank. Crews from the Saskatoon Fire Department found the ship’s anchor in 2006.

READ MORE: Prairie Lily seminar discusses Saskatoon shipwreck, steamships and the Franklin Expedition

From 1913 to 1933, streetcars of the Saskatoon Municipal Railway crossed the Traffic Bridge.

In one case, a streetcar travelling westbound from Broadway Avenue on what is now Saskatchewan Crescent approached the bridge, derailed and landed on the ice of the river.

“No one hurt. People wouldn’t have been happy,” Kerr said with a laugh.

After temporary repairs, the City of Saskatoon permanently shuttered the Traffic Bridge in August 2010, citing public safety concerns.

Crucial structural elements had deteriorated, according to the city.

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The original Traffic Bridge was demolished beginning with an explosion in January 2016.

“I’m sure lots of people will be delighted to see that bridge open again,” Kerr said.

The replacement Traffic Bridge, meant to be an homage to the original, will be celebrated alongside the Chief Mistawasis Bridge on Tuesday.

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