The Agassiz wharf in 1942. (Agassiz-Harrison Historical Society)

The Agassiz wharf in 1942. (Agassiz-Harrison Historical Society)

Kent 125

CELEBRATING 125: Agassiz-Rosedale Bridge sign of progress, monument to disappointment

The construction of the bridge in 1956 brought new ideas to Agassiz, but didn’t meet all expectations

By Luke Kelly

The “Ferry Age”, as declared by writer Laura Linton, is a perfect period for romantic reflections. In her Vancouver Sun article in 1955, Linton painted the history of river transportation in Agassiz with swaths of nostalgia and adventure — just as she was staring progress and efficiency square in the face.

River transport across the Fraser was described through limitations the people of Agassiz and the surrounding communities had to endure; in the early 1900s residents crossed the river using “an open scow,” which, if heavily loaded, could become “almost level with the water,” according to early Agassiz settler Harvey Naismith.

The Agassiz ferry Eena as it travels over the Fraser River. (Agassiz-Harrison Historical Society)

When this stone and steel umbilical cord was completed in the fall of 1956, the people no longer had to rely on scows, or even the ferry schedule, which saw vehicles move from Agassiz to Rosedale.

What Linton did not anticipate in her article was how vocal community members would become with the arrival of the bridge. It was likely not her goal to cover every angle of the bridge’s creation, but her article was still rooted in thoughts of community impact and of perspective: these were thoughts that residents of Agassiz had in spades even before the bridge was opened.

RELATED: Dozens share in Agassiz history at first-ever Heritage Speaker Night

When the bridge did open, it allowed for opportunities the community of Agassiz had never experienced before. Chilliwack was an exciting alternative to the doldrum and worn experiences of the small isolated river community. The people knew what they wanted, and as a result some changes occurred: the Aga Theater and other businesses around town closed. Local newspapers shared the frank opinions of the community. In 1956, the Chilliwack Progress had headings such as “Threat to business,” a story which detailed how “a few Agassiz merchants saw the bridge as a potential threat,” and “Let’s park the ark,” which was part of the “catchy slogan” the Chilliwack Board of Trade developed for promoting a need for the bridge.

The Agassiz-Rosedale Bridge as it was under construction in the 1950s. (Agassiz-Harrison Historical Society)

Although the bridge was a sign of progress in Agassiz, the realities soon became all to apparent. Progress and efficiency took on a different form — perhaps a form that would best be described through cut corners.

The communities which depended on the bridge found their expectations unmatched. The success of the bridge was questioned from the get-go: an article from The Province in 1956 that was published a week before the bridge’s opening reported that residents were a “little bitter that the government, while engaged in the $4,000,000 project (approximately $36.5 million today) didn’t go ‘all out’ and provide a four-lane span that would take care of traffic needs well into the future.”

This scathing remark echoes the community notions of today, 63 years after the bridge was built. It still has two lanes, and is still the main thoroughfare for traffic going to and from Agassiz and the surrounding communities. What has changed is the number of vehicles that use it: from a projected 7,000 per day in 1956 to the current 11,000 per day.

Expanding the bridge to four lanes will take considerable effort. A 1956 article in the Chilliwack Progress summarized the struggles that accompanied the bridge’s development: the subheadings “Back To Starting Point,” “Bond Delayed” and even “Struggle All But Over” describe a telling journey of the efforts to build the bridge.

The Agassiz-Rosedale Bridge. (Agassiz-Harrison Historical Society)

These issues continue to plague the bridge today; the promised funding for its expansion has seen setbacks, as noted by MLA Laurie Throness in a 2017 article in the Agassiz Harrison Observer: “Because of the expected increase in cost — Throness didn’t know how much of an increase was anticipated — the project will likely need to return to the legislature for more funding.”

RELATED: Agassiz-Rosedale Bridge construction could start in 2021, MLA says

The bridge span is steady and unmoving as it provides an important connection across the Fraser, but there are unseen issues which are in motion around it.

Underneath it all, the ferry roads and physical echoes of the past can be seen along the banks of the Fraser. One only needs to read a nostalgic article or two as they walk alongside the river to imagine what life was like before the Agassiz-Rosedale Bridge came to town — yet the constant flow of traffic on the bridge above will provide a distraction for those becoming too reminiscent of the past.

Want to read more about the history of the District of Kent for its 125th anniversary? Check out

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Kent 125

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The paraglider pilot, while attempting to free himself, dropped 30 feet and sustained serious injuries as Kent-Harrison Search and Rescue members worked quickly to extract him from the trees. They were able to get him to a waiting ambulance at the end of a nearby forest service road. (Contributed Photo/Dave Harder)
Lower Mainland Search and Rescue saves paraglider in treetop rescue

Pilot tried to self-rescue but sustained serious injuries in a 30-foot fall

An original piece of artwork by Rosie Laponder, was stolen along with various art supplies from Julie Ann’s Art and Custom Framing in Chilliwack on Nov. 28, 2020. (Submitted image)
Thieves steal original artwork, art supplies from Chilliwack store

‘It kind of makes you sick to your stomach,’ says store manager

Still from a video surveillance camera of a man alleged to have stolen from several people at knife-point in Chilliwack (Rosedale) early on Nov. 28, 2020. (Facebook)
Violent crime spree involving knife ends in arrest in Chilliwack

RCMP looking for footage that captures violent crime spree in Chilliwack

Hope Secondary School. (Emelie Peacock/Hope Standard)
Update: Fourth COVID-19 exposure at Hope Secondary School confirmed

Hope high school the only school in Fraser Cascade to experience multiple exposures

Abbotsford's Jada Klein
Abbotsford’s Jada Klein releases debut EP

Fresh off FVMA win, Robert Bateman grad’s ‘Always, Forever’ album arrives online

A B.C. Ambulance Service paramedic wearing a face mask to curb the spread of COVID-19 moves a stretcher outside an ambulance at Royal Columbia Hospital, in New Westminster, B.C., on Sunday, November 29, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. records deadliest weekend of COVID-19 pandemic with 46 deaths; more than 2,300 cases

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry provides COVID-19 update

Menno Place. (Google Street View image.)
32 family members respond to Abbotsford care home’s plea for staffing help during COVID-19 outbreak

Menno Home asks for relief workers for food service, laundry and housekeeping

Kettle bells sit aligned in an indoor fitness studio. (
1 COVID-19 case at a B.C. fitness studio leads to 104 more infections, 6 school exposures

According to case data released by Fraser Health, one case of the novel coronavirus carries a big impact

Vehicles drive past a display thanking essential workers in Burnaby, B.C. on Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Marissa Tiel
B.C. changing COVID-19 case reporting as virus spread continues

Manual counting takes more time, leads to errors

Black Press Media and BraveFace have come together to support children facing life-threatening conditions. Net proceeds from these washable, reusable, three-layer masks go to Make-A-Wish Foundation BC & Yukon.
Put on a BraveFace: Mask fundraiser helps make children’s wishes come true

From Black Press Media + BraveFace – adult, youth and kid masks support Make-A-Wish Foundation

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Christy Jordan-Fenton is the co-author of the book Fatty Legs, which has been mentioned amid the controversy of an Abbotsford school assignment on residential schools.
Co-author of residential schools book condemns controversial Abbotsford class assignment

Children’s book mentioned amid controversy at W. A. Fraser Middle School

Kootenay East MLA Tom Shypitka takes over as energy and mines critic for the B.C. Liberal opposition. Kelowna-Lake Country MLA Norm Letnick (right) moves from health critic to assistant deputy speaker. (Hansard TV)
B.C. Liberals pick critics to take on Horgan’s NDP majority

Interim leader Shirley Bond takes seniors, long-term care

Most Read