Smith Bridge replacement getting closer

Funding comes through for detailed design

Pearl Lorentzen
Lakeside Leader

The M.D. of Lesser Slave River is one step closer to replacing the World War II-era bridge at Smith.

In mid-June, the Government of Alberta announced the Strategic Transportation Infrastructure Program (STIP) funding for the province. This includes detailed design funding for the Smith Bridge and a preliminary design for another M.D. of Lesser Slave River bridge.

The STIP grant covers $2,000,000 of the $76,000,000 estimated cost to replace the Smith Bridge.

At its June 26 meeting, M.D. council wasted no time in allocating the grant; it voted to engage Associated Engineering for the detailed design job, for a price of $1.79 million. The contract also includes environmental permitting and tender preparation.

The existing one-lane bridge crosses the Athabasca River at Smith, a hamlet in the M.D. It was built by the U.S. military during World War II.

In March 2023, the province agreed to pay $1,652,850 toward the preliminary engineering studies to replace the bridge. This was 75 per cent of the estimated cost.

This was after a lobbying push organized by the M.D., to get the government to act.

The M.D. website says that the bridge was expected to last 75 years, which ended in 2019. Now, five years later, the M.D. says it badly needs to be replaced.

Earlier this year, the M.D. budgeted money to do some repairs to keep the existing bridge in service.

The M.D. also received $1,662,850 for a preliminary design for another bridge which needs replaced. The total cost of this part of the design is $2,203,800.

The news release from the Government of Alberta says the STIP grants total $236 million and will support 125 transportation and water infrastructure projects in rural and remote Alberta communities.

In the news release, Devin Dreeshen, Alberta Minister of Transportation and Economic Corridors, says “These provincial grants will help local communities repair aging infrastructure and build capacity for future population and economic growth. Upgrades to water and wastewater infrastructure, airports, bridges and roads will improve Albertans’ quality of life and improve everyday travel.”

In the news release, Kara Westerlund, Rural Municipalities of Alberta vice-president, says, “Rural municipalities manage massive infrastructure networks that provide industry with access to natural resources and markets. Provincial funding helps rural municipalities build and maintain these networks. We look forward to working with the Government of Alberta to ensure these programs continue to meet rural municipal needs.”

Until the STIP grant actually arrives, the M.D. will dip into its Transportation Capital Reserve for the detailed design project. That’ll be replenished (up to 75 per cent) with the grant money.

Reeve Murray Kerik says the M.D. is happy to see the commitment by the province in general and by Minister Dreeshen in particular.

“Thank you to our MLA, Scott Sinclair for his work to ensure we aren’t overlooked!” he adds.

Picturesque, but rickety

The bridge over the Athabasca River at Smith was built by the U.S. Military towards the end of the Second World War. It is overdue for replacement, and that is a step closer after provincial approval of funding for detailed design for a new bridge.

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