Burrard Street Bridge

Burrard Street Bridge

The Burrard Street Bridge is a six lane, 1932 Art Deco style, steel truss bridge in Vancouver, British Columbia. This high, five-part bridge on four piers spans False Creek, connecting that city's downtown with Kitsilano. Its two close approach spans are Warren deck-trusses, while its central span reverses to a through Pratt truss, to allow shipping. The central span is masked on both sides by extensions of its masonry piers into imposing concrete towers, connected by overhead galleries, which are embellished with architectural and sculptural details, creating a torch-like entrance of pylons. Originally unifying the long approaches and the distinctive central span were heavy concrete railings, topped by decorative street lamps. Busts of Captain George Vancouver and Sir Harry Burrard-Neale in ship prows jut from the bridge’s superstructure (a V under Vancouver’s bust, a B under Burrard’s). The design architect was George Lister Thornton Sharp, the engineer John R. Grant.


The Burrard Street Bridge, opened July 1, 1932, was built to provide a high-level crossing from Vancouver to the south-western neighbourhoods in Kitsilano, by connecting Burrard Street to Cedar Street. After completion, Burrard was extended through to the base of downtown and Cedar Street disappeared.

At the opening ceremony, entertainment was provided by two bands, the Kitsilano Boy's Band and the Fireman's Band. An RCAF seaplane flew under the bridge and later a sugar replica of the bridge was unveiled at the civic reception in the Hotel Vancouver.

G.L. Thornton Sharp, of Sharp and Thompson, was the architect responsible for the distinctive towers on the bridge and its middle galleries. "Both central piers," Sharp told a reporter, "were designed and connected with an overhead gallery across the road. This helped to mask the network of steel in the truss from the two approaches, and has been treated as an entrance gateway to the city." Along their other axis, the full height of the piers above the water also serve to frame a sea entrance gateway, notably for pleasure craft: "by sea and land we prosper". The piers have provision for a rapid transit vertical lift span beneath the highway deck, never installed.

Present Issues

Typical of our time, accommodation for rising traffic volumes (motorized, pedestrian, bicycle, skate) on a heritage structure presents planning problems regarding the Burrard Street Bridge. Following is a summary, ongoing review of events, with links. Notes: the entire Burrard Street Bridge, not only its frequently photographed central span--or even that with its two near side spans--is the subject of this debate. Also, the Burrard is the first of three bridges over False Creek: to its east are the Granville Street and the Cambie Street bridges. (Interested readers may monitor traffic flows themselves by means of the webcam above, reckoning for Pacific Time.)

1. A serious accident, covered on national news, illustrates the problems of mixing three kinds of bridge traffic.

2. Beginning March 26, 1996, in a six month trial by the City, one commuter lane was closed to automobile traffic and made into a temporary cyclist lane. However after one week, the City was forced to revert the lane to its original purpose, due to public 'outrage' or discontent.

3. On May 31, 2005, a detailed engineering and planning report was presented to Council, reviewing the situation broadly, expositing alternatives and offering recommendations. (Its computer visualizations of various proposals [esp. pp. 8-12--notably p. 8--and Appendix E] are indispensable illustrations to the discussion. See )

4. That day Vancouver City Council voted 10-1 not to follow the recommendations of the report, but to reallocate the two curb-side lanes to cyclists for another trial, as part of Council's plan to increase cycling in Vancouver by 10% for the 2010 Winter Olympics.

5. The issue was carried into the municipal election of November 19, 2005.

6. On December 20, 2005 the newly elected City Council voted 6-4 to cancel the lane reallocation trial and to proceed directly to widening the bridge sidewalks as promised in that election.

7. In 2006, the City considered removing the concrete railings and widening the bridge deck by outward ('outrigger') sidewalks, at projected cost of over $40 million. (See p. 8 of ) To preserve the bridge's heritage value, such cantilevered structures would not include the bridge's central piers, or towers. Critics of this plan argue that the resulting "pinch points" would defeat the purpose of widening the bridge by creating bottlenecks, through which a greater number of cyclists, skaters and pedestrians must pass over coming decades.

8. For the third consecutive year, in 2008 Heritage Vancouver lists the Burrard Bridge first on its Top Ten endangered sites in Vancouver. It was fourth in 2005.

9. Sidewalk expansion has also been delayed by the Squamish First Nation, which controls the land directly under the south (or west) side of the bridge. For construction to begin, the city would require permission from this group, which has expressed concern that machinery working on the site may affect their land.

The Squamish First Nation also plans to erect advertising billboards on their properties, located at that bridge approach, as well as similar properties by the Lions' Gate Bridge and the Ironworkers Memorial Second Narrows Crossing.

10. In a late April 2008 report to Council, city engineers raised est. cost of widening to $57 million, due to reconsideration regarding additional weight to the existing bridge structure and rising construction costs. $61 million was set as a more likely figure.


  • Persons cross per hour: 8,000 - 9,000 (peak times)
  • Lone drivers: 49%
  • Car poolers: 21%
  • Transit riders: 21%
  • Cyclists: 5%
  • Walkers: 4%

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