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History » High Level Bridge

Description of Historic Site
Edmonton’s High Level Bridge is a massive structure and a significant landmark for the City of Edmonton and Civil Engineering alike. It is a steel truss bridge featuring 28 individual spans that sit 49 metres above the North Saskatchewan River atop concrete piers and steel legs. The bridge carries pedestrian, vehicular and rail traffic 755 metres across the entire river valley, linking the downtown core with Old Strathcona via 109th Street.
Historical Significance
The construction of the High Level Bridge highlights the importance of the railway in the area’s development as the $2 million cost was shared between the City of Strathcona, the City of Edmonton, Canadian Pacific Railway, the province of Alberta and the Canadian government. Furthermore, it was a factor in aiding in the amalgamation between the City of Edmonton and the City of Strathcona as transportation of people and goods between the two cities was increased.

The High Level Bridge is one of the four great steel truss bridges constructed by Canadian Pacific before the Second World War and its incorporation of automobile, rail, and pedestrian traffic was original in Western Canada for its time.

It’s design and materials remain in tact over these years and serve as an icon for the City of Edmonton. It is recognized by the City as a historic resource.

One of the rivet hammers used during the construction process of the High Level Bridge has become part of the Edmonton-area Ritual of the Calling of an Engineer.
image courtesy
1 City of Edmonton
2 Edmonton Radial Railway
4 Wikipedia: High Level Bridge
Article researched and compiled by Travis Hnidan, CSCE Edmonton History Committee 2011/12

image courtesy Travis Hnidan
Construction and History
Construction of the High Level Bridge commenced in 1910 as per the designs created by Phillips B. Motley, an employee of Canadian Pacific Railway. The bridge was completed over three years by John B. Gunn and Sons and immediately served as an important link to the community of Strathcona, newly amalgamated with the City of Edmonton in 1912.

The bridge supported four different modes of transportation across the North Saskatchewan: automobile, train, streetcar, and pedestrian; however streetcar traffic ceased operation in 1951 and train use, in 1989. A tourist streetcar now runs seasonally on the upper deck while automobile and pedestrian traffic continue on the lower deck.
image courtesy Travis Hnidan
Defining Features
Characteristic features of the High Level Bridge include:
- three, 88 m long and seven, 29 m long Pratt Truss spans
- six, 14 m long tower spans
- two, 40 m long Warren Truss spans
- four concrete piers set in river bed
- original bridge superstructure
- two, 12 m wide decks, separated vertically by 20 m
- all black steel paint finish
image courtesy Travis Hnidan