Fred Morris

From the desk of a gadfly


To celebrate the 100th Anniversary of St. James (starting just west of St. James Street to Sturgeon Road) breaking away from Assiniboia to form their own municipality, I am doing street profiles.

Long-time North End Winnipeg Alderman John Blumberg made the following two comments about the Arlington Street Bridge on Page 3 of the July 30, 1946, Winnipeg Free Press: “The sooner the bridge comes down and a modern one goes up, the sooner the city will maintain expenses.” Sub head, “Alarming” Blumberg's reaction to recent bridge inspections.

Why has this problem not been resolved in the past 75 years?

During the early 1900s, Arlington Street turned into Brant Street at Notre Dame. On February 5, 1912, the Arlington Bridge was opened connecting Brown Street in the north end with Brant Street. Brown and Brant were renamed Arlington.

The iconic Arlington Bridge.

Arlington Street now ran from the Assiniboine River into the North End. There have been attempts to connect the Arlington Bridge to south Winnipeg. On July 3, 1912, a newspaper notice announced that a bridge would be built connecting Arlington Street and Mitchell Street in the south. In 1957, a Greater Winnipeg Traffic Report recommended building a bridge connecting Aubrey Street (just west of Arlington) to Waverley Street. Neither idea happened. We should accept the fact that traffic coming off the Arlington Street Bridge will have to divert 7 streets over to Maryland to access South Winnipeg.

The steep inclines on the new Arlington Bridge created immediate problems. Safety concerns resulted in the cancellation of the planned streetcar service over the bridge before the first streetcar had travelled over the bridge.

The bridge was repaired in 1931, 1943, 1946, 1947, and 1952. These repairs included deck, sidewalk, and foundation repairs. Some of the problems were caused by smoke from the locomotives. On July 20, 1965, a front-page Winnipeg Free Press Story reported that the bridge was badly rusted. Weight restrictions were implemented to extend the bridge's life by five years. Fifteen years later, in 1979/80, city Council approved the Sherbrook McGregor Overpass to replace the Arlington Street Bridge.

The direct link from McGregor, a key North End street to the Health Sciences Centre and Maryland Bridge, is actually a better north-south corridor than Arlington. The Progressive Conservative provincial government of Sterling Lyon committed funds. However, the City Council changed its mind due to strong community opposition.

In 1992, Arlington Bridge was closed for a 6-month repair. The repair was expected to add 10 or 20 years to the life of the bridge. In 2000, the bridge was closed twice when train accidents damaged the bridge’s girders holding up the approaches.

In 2007, a comprehensive Winnipeg Free Press report graded most Winnipeg bridges. Arlington Street was rated POOR. In 2018, Global News expressed concerns about severe corrosion and cracks. (1) On April 19, 2019, the Bridge was temporarily closed due to asphalt problems. In 2020, the Bridge was closed for several weeks. These repairs included asphalting the entire bridge.

The possible relocation of the CP Rail yards has long been used as an excuse not to build a replacement bridge. There is always a slight chance that the rail yard relocation may eliminate the need for existing bridges. However, this argument has not stopped the construction of other bridges or underpasses over or under rail lines. Salter Street bridges have been built in 1898, 1932, and 1984. A CN line running thorough East and South Winnipeg created traffic problems. These problems have been eased by the construction of underpasses at Kenaston, Plessis, and Waverley.

The city has kept the bridge open through frequent inspections and closures. However, we cannot inspect any bridge every day. The severe rust could cause problems at a moment's notice. An administration report to city Council on June 20, 2019, clearly states that the Bridge may have to temporarily or permanently close with no notice.

After 75 years of warnings, the time has come to tear down the Arlington Street Bridge.

On February 10, 2023, CTV reported that the city was conducting a $850,000 Feasibility Study to extend the life of the bridge by another 25 years. How can any of the 13 members of the current city Council who voted to adopt the 2019 Report saying the Bridge was almost beyond repair now authorize spending city tax dollars to contradict their 2019 position.

The real question is whether the Arlington Street Bridge is still safe. All three major Manitoba political parties seem to have an identical position on this issue. “It is a city issue.”

However, there have simply been too many red flags over the past 75 years. The province should step in and inspect the bridge. Future regular inspections should be done by both the city and the province.

Let us hear from provincial politicians during the election campaign on this issue.


  1. Article by Elisha Dacey quoting Young Jin Cha a Civil Engineering Prof.

Fred Morris is a Grandfather, Sports Fan and Political Activist.


@ 2023 Pegasus Publications Inc.