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Finlay Bridge is a traffic and footbridge crossing the South Saskatchewan River, connecting Riverside and Downtown of Medicine Hat. Constructed of steel, concrete, and wood, this 900-foot span, officially opened on May 14, 1908. Although Medicine Hat’s two banks had been connected by the CPR rail bridge since 1883, as well as a small ferry service originally operated by the Northwest Mounted Police. To use the CPR bridge to travel between downtown and Riverside meant dodging passenger and freight trains. The ferry, although less hazardous, typically only operated for six months of the year. Not only did the bridge instigate development within new areas of the City, but it also solidified Medicine Hat’s establishment as a transportation hub in southeastern Alberta. Finlay Bridge meant that Medicine Hat and Southeast Alberta were truly linked to the rest of the new province of Alberta.
The bridge is named for William T. Finlay: Mayor of Medicine Hat from 1900-1902, a representative for Medicine Hat in the Territorial Government 1902-1905, and Medicine Hat’s first representative in the Alberta Legislature 1905-1910. During his two years as Mayor of Medicine Hat Finlay improved the community’s infrastructure and most significantly secured the municipal ownership of the natural gas resources. It was while serving as the Ministry of Agriculture that he advocated for the construction of a traffic bridge across the South Saskatchewan River to benefit the City’s residents.
Structurally, Finlay Bridge consists of abutments on each bank of the river, 4 concrete piers (40 feet of which are above the bed and 25 feet which are below), and five steel arches (measuring 31 feet in height and are 180 feet long). The bridge as originally constructed was 28 feet wide with a wood deck and a wood sidewalk running along the west side of traffic. A six-foot sidewalk was later added between 1908 and 1917 on the east side of traffic. At the time of construction, Finlay Bridge was the longest steel bridge in Alberta, and the second-longest across the South Saskatchewan when built.
Source: City of Medicine Hat