Niagara Falls Bridges over the Niagara
Today there are six bridges that cross the International Border between Canada and the U.S.A. along the Niagara River. They are (From south to north):
- Peace Bridge - Fort Erie (vehicle & pedestrians)
- Railroad Bridge - Fort Erie (trains only)
- Rainbow Bridge - Niagara Falls (vehicle & pedestrians)
- Railway Steel Arch Bridge - Niagara Falls (trains only)
- Whirlpool Bridge - Niagara Falls (vehicles, pedestrians & trains)
- Queenston - Lewiston Bridge - Queenston - Lewiston (vehicle & pedestrians)
Motorists of both countries can obtain timely information on border crossing wait times by dialing 1-800-715-6722.
The Peace Bridge
This bridge was built in 1927 to connect Buffalo, New York and Fort Erie, Ontario. It was built because the 1873 International Railway Bridge did not consider the needs of pedestrian or motor vehicle traffic. The campaign to build the bridge began in 1919, and in 1925 received approval from the International Joint Commission. Financing, with a budget of $4.5 million dollars, funded by a bond issue. The bridge was completed in 1927, and until 1992 was the busiest border crossing between Canada & the USA.
The Peace Bridge is about a kilometer (1/2 mile) south of the International Railway Bridge, and was built over fast flowing waters, with a current averaging 7.5 to 12 miles per hour. The Peace Bridge has five arched spans over the Niagara River, plus a Parker through-truss which spans the Black Rock Canal on the American side. The total length of this bridge is 5,800 feet (1,770 m) and used 9,000 tons of structural steel and 800 tons of reinforcing steel.
Over the past decade, the Peace Bridge has undergone structural improvements. In 1997, the Buffalo and Ft. Erie Public Bridge Authority, announced plans for a "twin" second Peace Bridge just to the North of the existing Peace Bridge to alleviate traffic congestion. Construction was expected to take from 1999 to 2002 and cost $65 million, but was delayed indefinitely due to legal difficulties and court challenges.
The International Railway Bridge
This bridge has crossed the Niagara River from Buffalo, New York to Fort Erie, Ontario since 1873. The Grand Trunk Railway (Canadian National Rail Corporation) needed a railway bridge spanning the Upper Niagara River, and the Dominion Parliament and the New York State Legislature drafted an agreement for the construction of the "International Bridge", though construction was delayed due to post Civil War funding issues in the USA, but was begun in 1870.
Construction challenges included water currents between 7-12 miles per hour, fluctuating water levels and ice flows. The original bridge was designed to included plans for a combination rail line, roadway and sidewalk, but economic reduced the bridge to a rail line and pedestrian walkway. In 1900, the superstructure of the bridge was redesigned and the pedestrian walkway was removed to allow room for another rail bed.
The total length of this bridge is 3,651.5 feet (1113m) in three distinct sections:
Top traffic on the bridge was on July 10th 1916, 264 trains crossed the bridge in a twenty four hour period, though today, the bridge averages ten to fifteen trains per day.
The Rainbow Bridge (Steel Arch)
In 1938, joint Government of Ontario/New York approval gave the Niagara Falls Bridge Commission responsibility for the administration and maintenance of all the international bridges crossing the Niagara River. Soon after, the Niagara Falls Bridge Commission planned a new bridge over the Niagara Gorge to replace the aging Honeymoon Bridge, to be named the "Rainbow Bridge". This bridge was dedicated in 1939, by King George VI and Queen Elizabeth (see the monument erected on the Canadian shore) and construction began in 1940. The bridge was opened in late 1941 (just a week before the attack on Pearl Harbor)
The location is 550 feet (168m) north of the previous Honeymoon Bridge and 1,000 feet (305m) north of the American Falls, at a point where the Niagara Gorge is 200 feet (60m) deep and approximately one thousand (1,000) feet (305m) wide. At this point the water current under this bridge averages 26-30 miles per hour, with a depth of over 175 feet (53m), and a flow of about six billion (6,000,000,000) pounds of water per minute.
The span of the bridge is 950 feet (289.5m). Each of the main arch abutments are 50 feet (15m) above the surface of the river, resting on the solid rock on the sides of the gorge. Approximately 3500 tons of steel were used in the two ribs and 2,000 additional tons of steel in the superstructure and decking. The arch is self supporting upon its abutments, holding the 1,450 feet (442m) long deck of the bridge about 202 feet (61.5m) above the river. The bridge has two lanes for vehicular traffic and a ten foot (3m) wide sidewalk along the south side, facing the Falls.
Lower Arch Bridge (Whirlpool Rapids Bridge)
Located just upriver of the Whirlpool Rapids, the Whirlpool Rapids Bridge (Lower Arch Bridge) serves vehicle, pedestrian and rail traffic (Conrail-Via Rail). This bridge has been operating since 1897, and was built to replace the existing railway and road bridge at that same spot, without affecting rail or road traffic more than 2 hours a day. The bridge has cantilevers from the two sides, spanned by a central arch. In 1939, the name of this bridge was changed from the Lower Arch Bridge to the Whirlpool Rapids Bridge. Today this bridge is still in operation.
The Third Queenston-Lewiston Steel Arch Bridge
In 1956, the New York Power Authority proposed a new steel arch bridge across the Niagara Gorge as part of a plan to build a power generating station, and enhancing the parks and highway along the American shoreline.
The $16 million construction project began in 1960, and the new 4-lane Queenston-Lewiston Steel Arch Bridge, a replica of the Rainbow Bridge, replaced the old suspension bridge in 1962. The bridge, located 5 miles north of the Whirlpool, has a total length of 1,600 feet (488m) with the arch spanning 1,000 feet (304.8m), about 370 feet (113m) above the river.