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On its 80th birthday, a look back at the fascinating history of the Lions Gate Bridge

Lions Gate Bridge turns 80
WATCH: Happy birthday to the Lions Gate Bridge! Aaron McArthur reports on the fascinating history of the iconic B.C. span that was first opened eight decades ago.

The Lions Gate Bridge celebrated its 80th birthday on Monday.

The Vancouver landmark was financed by foreign money and built to fuel real estate speculation.

The Guinness family, the makers of the famed Irish stout, spent $6 million to entice people into living in what became known as the British Properties.

“The whole idea was that people would own cars and there would be a kind of a car-access-only suburb, which in a way guarantees exclusivity,” historian Michael Cluckner said.

The 4,000-acre West Vancouver enclave was off-limits to people of colour.

“The British Properties were explicit in what they were about,” Cluckners said.

Historians argue part of that exclusivity was protected by a hefty toll on the bridge.

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The Guinness’ recouped their original investment with a toll of 25 cents for cars, ($5 in today’s prices) and five cents for pedestrians and bicycles.

The Guinness family sold the bridge to the provincial government in 1954, but a toll was collected until 1963.

Over the years, the Lions Gate has had its fair share of critics.

Billed as the “bridge from nowhere to nowhere” when it was first opened to traffic in 1938, it quickly exceeded its capacity.
Locals dubbed the bridge the “car strangled spanner.”

The original structure was a two-lane bridge. It was turned into a three-lane bridge in 1963.

The state of the bridge grew so dire by the 1980s, there were calls to replace the aging structure.

Finally in the 1990s the bridge was rebuilt section by section.