6 Types of BC Bridges Identified

Dry Gulch 1
Dry Gulch Bridge on BC Highway 5 is a steel arch bridge.

According to the dictionary, a bridge is: “a structure carrying a road, path, railroad or canal across a river, ravine, road, railroad or other obstacle”.

That’s a basic and accurate description of a bridge to be sure, but here at the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure, we think of bridges as something more than just a structure crossing a span. We think of bridges as a special type of infrastructure. Bridges inspire. Bridges open possibilities. Bridges connect. To us, bridges are a pretty big deal.

Because British Columbia is so geographically diverse and because bridge engineering evolves over time, you will see a variety of bridge types being used in BC. In order to span a crossing, a bridge must have support. That support system can be above or below the bridge deck. Bridges can be constructed out of steel, wood, metal or concrete or a combination of these materials. With these basic ideas in mind, we would like to introduce you to some general types of bridges used in BC.

1. Suspension

This is a type of bridge in which the weight of the deck is supported by vertical cables suspended from larger cables that run between towers and are anchored in abutments at each end.

Hudson Hope
Hudson’s Hope Bridge is a beautiful example of a suspension style bridge. Built in 1964, this bridge is located on Highway 29 west of Fort St. John. Suspension bridges use cables to support the bridge deck along the span.
Lions Gate at night
Built in 1938, the iconic Lions Gate Bridge is the most recognizable bridge in BC and another excellent example of a suspension bridge.

2. Truss Bridges

A truss is a structure built out of tension and compression sections. These sections are arranged in triangular patterns to provide strength and stability. A truss bridge is a bridge with a load carrying superstructure made of trusses. Truss bridges are generally made from either steel or timber or a combination of both. Trusses can be presented on top of the bridge deck (a “through” truss) or under the bridge deck (an “under” truss).

Oyster River Bridge
The Oyster River Bridge near Campbell River on Vancouver Island is a timber “through” truss bridge. Basically, this is a bridge with a timber truss which you drive through.
Bell Irving
The Bell Irving River Bridge is a steel truss bridge. Like the Oyster River Bridge, you drive through the trusses, but in this example, those trusses are constructed of steel instead of timber. If you look closely at this image, you will notice that this bridge has a metal deck used to reduce the weight of the bridge. The Bell Irving River Bridge was constructed in 1967 and is located about 100 km north of Cranberry Junction on Highway 37.
Simon Fraser Bridge 1
The Simon Fraser Bridge, built in 1963, is a deck over steel truss bridge which with an arch shaped bottom profile spans the Fraser River in Prince George. It was twinned with a second bridge in 2009.
Simon Fraser Under
An interesting and artistic perspective of the steel “under” truss of the Simon Fraser Bridge.
St Marys Wycliffe
St. Mary’s Wycliffe Bridge, built in 1931, is a lovely example of a timber bridge with trestle spans and a deck over a timber truss support.

3. Arch Bridges

Are steel or concrete bridges constructed in the form of an arch or arches, typically with concrete abutments.

Big Qualicum cropped
Big Qualicum Bridge is concrete arch bridge with concrete girders located along Highway 19 on Vancouver Island.
Dry Gulch 2
Dry Gulch Bridge on Highway 5 is a steel arch bridge.
Chilcotin Bridge
Chilcotin Bridge — like the Dry Gulch Bridge (featured further above), the Chilcotin Bridge (located in the Cariboo region) is another classic example of a steel arch bridge. Unlike Dry Gulch Bridge, this arch uses a truss configuration. This bridge is also known locally as “Sheep Creek Bridge.”
Culliton Bridge crop
The Culliton Bridge is a tied steel arch with the arch above the bridge deck. Built in 1983 it is located on Highway 99, also known as the Sea to Sky.

4. Cable Stayed Bridges

A cable stayed bridge has one or more towers from which cables support the deck.

Pitt River Bridge
The Pitt River Bridge, constructed in 2010, is an elegant example of a cable stayed bridge. Other examples of cable stayed bridges in B.C. include the new Port Mann Bridge and the Alex Fraser Bridge. All three are located in the lower mainland.

5. Girder Bridge

A bridge constructed with wood, steel or concrete girders.

Park Bridge
The Park Bridge (the inspiration for our TranBC logo) is a curved steel girder bridge on concrete piers. Constructed in 2007, it is located on BC highway 1 12 km east of Golden.
02991 Bostock Road Overpass East Image 1
Another type of bridge which often goes unnoticed but is actually a very common bridge type in BC is the overpass. This is the Bostock Road Overpass, located on the Trans-Canada Highway in Kamloops. This bridge is made up of pre-stressed concrete box beams and supported on mechanically stabilized earth wall abutments.
02606 Kiskatinaw River Bridge Image 3 (from internet)
This stunning structure is called Kiskatinaw Bridge. Located in the Peace region, it is a steel frame bridge built in 1978.
07015 Large Creek Bridge Image 2
Built in 2010 on Vancouver Island, Large Creek Bridge is constructed out of glulam timber girders. Glulam is glue laminated timber, a structural timber made out of a number of layers of timber bonded together with durable, moisture-resistant adhesive.

6. Floating Bridge

These bridges are sometimes called pontoon bridges and they really do float.

Floating Bridge
The William R. Bennett Bridge on Highway 97 across Okanagan Lake was completed in 2008 and is one of only a few floating bridges in the world. The crossing is about 1060m long of which 700m are on floating concrete pontoons. The structure has five lanes plus an elevated span to allow passage of marine traffic.

So, now you know some of the basic types of bridges in British Columbia, you can amaze your friends and family with your new found knowledge on your next road trip. Looking for more information on a bridge, or type of bridge which we didn’t cover here? Let us know in the comments below.

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Page 1 of 53 comments on “6 Types of BC Bridges Identified”

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  1. Does the Ministry of Transportation still build glulam bridges? Do they build glulam mainly over water or traffic? Have there been any issues with glulam bridges? Are they difficult or expensive to fix and maintain?

    • Hi Kim, thanks for reaching out to us. We have passed your questions about glulam bridges to our bridge engineering group. We will get back to you with their reply as soon as we hear back, please stay tuned.

    • Hi Kim, and thank you for your patience! We have heard back from our structural engineering team about the use of glulam bridges:

      – Glulam bridges are one of many options for roadway bridges
      – Design of glulam bridges is included in the Canadian Highway Bridge Design Code CSA S6
      – Glulam members require preservative treatment to protect the wood from decay
      – Designs based on good detailing and protection in addition to preservative treatment improve the durability of glulam members to reduce maintenance needs
      – MOTI Glulam bridges have been built mainly as water crossings
      – The most recent new MOTI roadway bridges using glulam members were constructed in 2010

      We hope this information is helpful, and thank you again for your patience. Drive safe out there.

  2. Bell 1 Bridge allowable height? We have loads larger than normal coming through because of the closure of the bridge on the Alaska highway being closed. What is the maximum height allowed.

  3. Hello.
    What is year northbound and southbound bridge built in Campbell River on Highway 19 and what is Correct clearance metres on the southbound truss bridge?

    Thank you!

    • Hello Harry,

      Looks like we’ve answered this one before (in June 2021). In case you missed our response then here it is: The southbound structure was built in 1952 and the northbound was completed in 1998. The minimum clearance through the southbound bridge is 5.82 meters.

      Currently there are no plans to install clearance signs on this structure, as our standard for placement of overhead warning or clearance signs as outlined in Chapter 3 of the Manual of Standard Traffic Signs and Pavement Markings, is for restrictions 5.0 meters or under.

      Hope this helps. Safe travels.

      • Hello, MoTI

        I Found another history about the southbound bridges.

        In 1976 they did Modify the bracing to allow additional overhead clearance to allow truckers to fit the bridge
        In 1980 The bridge deck is resurfaced.

    • Hi there Harry,

      Five bridge structures were impacted on the Coquihalla Highway. Brodie Bridge, Juliet Bridge, Bottletop Bridge, Kingsvale East Bridge and Murray Bridge. Total costs to repair are not available at this time. Hope that this information is helpful. Safe travels.

  4. Great article and beautiful bridges; thanks for putting it together. If there is ever another edition of this article, you could add concrete segmental as a bridge type. Tsable River Bridge near Buckley Bay on Vancouver Island is a really nice example.

  5. Are there any plans to restore (or at least stabilize) the exquisite Alexandra Suspension Bridge, built in 1926 to cross the Frazer River? I have walked over this structure a number of times, and have enjoyed the beauty of the structure as well as the stunning scenery around the historic crossing. Since the bridge is approaching its centennial year, it would be lovely to think that it could be preserved for future enjoyment. Thanks

    • Unpainted steel bridges are likely made using Cor-ten steel. It’s designed for use in bridges and exposed structures; the outer layer of rust essentially forms a protective coating for the rest of the steel, unlike other steels where corrosion is progressive (and therefore painting is required) Older bridges, particularly in railroad applications aren’t being repainted as frequently anymore either, due to old lead-based paint which has to be removed first and/or newer fall-arrest requirements which make the work more difficult than in the past.

    • Looks like ‘weathering steel’. Low-carbon steel with nickel content, that resists corrosion and does not need painting – although it can be painted, and I’ve seen steel girder ends done.
      And, there are bridges around the province not made of weathering steel that (now) are beginning to look like they are. 😉

    • The unpainted bridges are fabricated with the use of 350AT “Weathering” steel. The initial oxidation creates a corrosion barrier which inhibits further deterioration.

  6. On the Kiskatinaw question, tranbc how about a comparison and photo of the old kisjatinaw curved bridge, which ist still in use albeit with a load restriction. She’s a beaut!

  7. Another try to pinpoint the ‘coke’ bridge question; is it near the ‘coke’ Summit sign. I saw the Summit sign but could not stop to get a picture of it – happened upon it too suddenly.

    • Hi Mark,

      It is just passed the summit, heading north. We have sent a snapshot of the bridge sign and approximate location from Google maps to your email. Hope that this helps!

  8. Thanks for the reply but I’m not familiar with your GPS answer of the Dry Gulch bridge location so please re-answer my question where the location of the bridge is, in simple English, thanks.

          • Ok, and thank you for all the answers. I drove the bridge and didn’t even know it. Maybe an idea would be is to place a sign or something to draw attention to it. I could have stopped for some pictures of it.

            But no matter, I had a wonderful and extraordinary first time visit to BC. The view of the Milky Way from the Hope Slide rest area was the most awesome, magnificent site I have ever seen in the night sky. It was like I could reach up and touch heaven – it was that brilliant to see. Thank you God for allowing me to view part of your creation and thank you Canada for allowing me to see part of your beautiful country. I absolutely want to come back.

          • Glad to hear you loved our beautiful province Mark. I too have seen the Milky Way along BC Highway 3 and will never forget it. And thanks for the suggestion about the bridge, we will share that forward with the local area manager.

  9. What section of the ‘coke’ is Dry Gulch Bridge on? Is it north of Merritt? I drove a portion of the ‘coke’ from Hope to Merritt on my drive to Kelowna in July 2014 but never saw the bridge. I’ve seen it on the Highway Thru Hell program on the Weather Channel. BTW, why is the ‘coke’ labeled as the ‘Highway Thru Hell’ in the first place considering the terrain it’s in is really beautiful to traverse no matter what the season is. Secondly, is BC doing to prevent all those tractor-trailer crashes from the HTH program in the winter on the ‘coke?’

  10. I wonder why you only mention the newer bridge in Kelowna, but not the old one it replaced (also a floating bridge) which had merits of its own.

    Also, why such an old picture of the William R Bennett bridge? the image used, where the new floating bridge is under construction and the old one is still visible (and in operation), is a bit confusing to look at.

  11. I run a Facebook page based around the town of Chemainus and we are having a discussion on when the TCH bridge over the Chemainus River (near Mt Sicker Road) was twinned. We have the date of the original bridge as 1950, now the mystery is on the new twin and when it was built. Any help is appreciated.

    • Hi Kathy,
      Thanks for connecting with us here.
      Chemainus River Bridge (East) was constructed in 1980 and you are correct, Chemainus River Bridge (West) was constructed in 1950.
      Hope that this helps.

  12. Great pictures! BC’s geography provides many opportunities for beautiful bridges. I once had a conversation with Sir Alexander Gibb, the designer of the original Severn Suspension Bridge in England. I complimented him on the elegance and beauty of the bridge. He replied “for each location there is a bridge design that is appropriate for that specific spot. If you build the right type of bridge, it will always appear beautiful.”

    Another bridge I’d nominate is the CPR’s Stony Creek (Steel Arch) Bridge, just east of Rogers Pass.

    PS the Park Bridge is actually between Golden and Field, BC.