Provencher Bridge

The Provencher Bridge is a bridge across the Red River in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. The bridge links downtown Winnipeg with St. Boniface, a Winnipeg community across the Red River. The Provencher Bridge derived its name from the connecting Boulevard Provencher (Provencher Boulevard).

The bridge serves Route 57 and is a main connector from Downtown Winnipeg to most of the eastern communities in Winnipeg. The speed limit on the bridge is 50 km/h (31 mph).

Bridge History

The first way of crossing the Red River was by ferry linking Broadway on the west with Provencher Blvd on the east. The ferry route was cancelled in 1879 after a bridge proposal was made.

The first bridge

The first bridge (the "old bridge") was originally named the Broadway bridge because it connected with Broadway on the other side, which is in direct line of sight with Provencher. Construction began in 1881 and was completed in April 1882. Disaster struck three days later, wiping away two spans of the bridge, but repairs were completed later that same month. The bridge was demolished in 1917 after a proposal for a newer one.

The second bridge

The second bridge was opened in 1918 to replace the old Broadway bridge. Instead of linking with Broadway, it was oriented slightly to the north; traffic crossing from the east was sent even further north, eventually connecting with Main Street about 500 metres from Broadway. Construction began in 1911 and was completed in 1912. Streetcars began operating on the bridge on December 3, 1925. The second bridge was dismantled in 2001 for the opening of the third (current) bridge.

The third bridge

The third bridge (the "modern bridge") actually consists of two bridges, a vehicular bridge and a pedestrian bridge. The vehicular bridge's plan was originally designed to connect York and St. Mary Avenues to Provencher Boulevard, but it was cancelled in 1997. The lands for the St. Mary-York-Provencher connection are now being used for the Canadian Museum for Human Rights. The vehicular bridge was constructed in 2001 and completed in September 2003. The pedestrian bridge was constructed later, and was completed the same year.

The vehicular part of the modern bridge is slightly curved, unlike the old bridge which was completely straight and at a slight angle. Construction of the vehicular bridge began on July 20, 2001. Two years later, in September, the vehicular bridge was completed.

The pedestrian bridge, or the Esplanade Riel (Named for Louis Riel, the Father of Manitoba), parallels the new Broadway bridge, and is a side-spar cable-stayed bridge designed by Étienne Gaboury, Architect and Colin Douglas Stewart of Wardrop Engineering. Some people were displeased with the look of the bridge, stating it resembled a phallic symbol. Others questioned whether the bridge was an appropriate or necessary use of public funds. Many of these initial negative opinions changed with the passage of time. The bridge is now frequently featured in post-cards and in other media as being representative of the City of Winnipeg. The bridge started construction in August 2002, and was completed the same year as the vehicular bridge. The unique piece of the Esplanade Riel is the restaurant in the middle of the bridge. This restaurant is a Salisbury House restaurant, a popular chain restaurant in Manitoba. The restaurant is partly owned by Burton Cummings of the Guess Who. Originally designed to house an upscale restaurant, a suitable tenant could not be found that was willing to live with the unique challenges of operating from a location in which supplies would have to be brought in on foot, and the location was awarded to Salisbury House, upsetting many locals not thrilled with the prospect of a new local landmark housing a diner.

The White Stripes

On July 2, 2007, garage rock duo The White Stripes played on the bridge's walking path to a crowd of about 50 excited fans. The impromptu show was part of a series of 'secret shows' the band had been playing during their 2007 Canadian tour. The band played two of their own songs: "You Don't Know What Love Is (You Just Do as Your Told)" and "We're Going to Be Friends", and then played a song with a busker who had been playing on the bridge earlier. The performance was filmed for The White Stripes Under Great White Northern Lights documentary film.