what we need

We seek to secure project funding that is commensurate with the importance of the Smith Bridge to the province’s bottom line.

A fair and feasible split

We propose to the Province that the MD’s project cost contribution is 10% or less.

Prioritized provincial funding

Initial grant funding of $2.5 million has paid for preliminary engineering and interim repairs. This momentum must continue.

Continued commitment

Having reached the design phase, we look to the Province to prioritize funding for this project.

The Smith Bridge is a vital part of the MD’s transportation network, but it is rapidly deteriorating. Originally designed by the US Army Corps of Engineers with a service life expectancy until 2022, the bridge faces challenges due to increased industrial traffic that heavily — and increasingly — relies on it.

Provincial funding for this project would eliminate a major barrier to industrial expansion and continued economic stability in the region. Pre-engineering studies estimate replacement costs at $68 million. The standard STIP condition is that the MD would absorb 25% of this cost ($17 million). This is not a fiscally responsible equation for any rural municipality.

The Smith Bridge is five years past its engineered life span. The time to rebuild is now, and we need the Province to prioritize the required funding.

The background information on this initiative will be updated following the Rural Municipalities of Alberta 2023 Fall Convention (November 6 – 9, 2023). Thank you for your patience.

The Smith Bridge is five years past its engineered life span. The time to rebuild is now, and we need the Province to prioritize the required funding.

The Smith Bridge is located on the north side of the Hamlet of Smith crossing the Athabasca River. Built in 1944 and finished in 1945, the structure is approximately 228m long, 5.5m wide, and a vertical height of 4.7m. Historical issues include sloughing of the north abutment; erosion gullies on both abutments; and horizontal cross brace damage due to oversized load collisions. Recent inspections, including a 2021 scour survey, have found significant deterioration of pier 3. The current alignment makes this pier extremely susceptible to debris accumulations, requiring near-constant monitoring and periodic debris removal at the expense of the MD.

In early 2016, the Clearwater Oil Formation was discovered in the Marten Hills region of the MD. Highway 2A via the Smith Bridge provides one of the easiest access points to Clearwater — currently the most productive and lucrative heavy oil play in North America. In addition to the MD’s robust oil & gas sector, there is a significant forestry industry thriving in the Lesser Slave River region. The Government of Alberta benefits from royalties and stumpage fees to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars each year.

The Smith Bridge reached the end of its service life in 2022; however, in January of 2022 the Alberta Government extended its life to 2034. Estimated replacement costs for a two-lane open-top bridge, plus the required repairs to the alignment and north slope, range from $70 to $100 million. Provincial funding for this project would eliminate a major barrier to industrial expansion and continued economic stability in the region. The bridge needs $553,000 IN URGENT REPAIRS in order to remain operational for an additional 4 to 5 years.

In November of 2022, the MD submitted two STIP grant applications to the provincial government. The first application was to fund urgent repairs necessary to maintain the operation of the Smith Bridge, while the second application was to initiate the design process for replacing the bridge.


  • This is a major bridge located on a road that services residents, tourists and the travelling public — but it is also heavily utilized by the oil & gas and forestry industries. The traffic needs of today are significantly different from those of 1944, and it is not feasible to expect a bridge from that era to meet the current economic demands.
  • The narrow bridge deck width and restricted height due to the overhead structure prevent the bulk of industry vehicles and equipment from using the Smith Bridge to access their sites in the north of the MD.
  • The bridge’s outdated design limits the size of agricultural equipment that can cross, which results in agricultural producers taking a 60km detour to access their properties.


A tenuous link in a vital economic corridor


invest in albertans

This war-era bridge was slated for replacement in 2019.

When the Smith Bridge was built, it was estimated that it would provide 75 years of useful service — beyond which point it would need to be replaced. According to its original builders, 2019 was the bridge’s end-of-life date.

resource revenues

Fixing this link in our transportation corridor benefits every Albertan.

An uncovered two-lane bridge would provide industry with greater opportunities for exploration; a more reliable sales route; and numerous other benefits.

An ideal window of opportunity exists for the MD’s thriving industrial plays to help offset the costs to replace this bridge. However, this opportunity will not exist forever.


Years of lobbying

The MD’s advocacy for the Smith Bridge rebuild go back 30 years or more. Councillors broach the subject in practically every meeting with the Province.


Years of service

When the Smith Bridge was built during WWII, it was engineered to provide 75 years of useful service — after which it would need to be replaced. 2019 was its expiry date.


Active well licences along Highway 88

Industrial use of Highway 88 will increase in tandem with thriving timber and oil & gas operations in our region.


Industry leaders and community members are helping the MD convey the Smith Bridge value proposition to the Province.

VP Operations (retired)
Deltastream Energy Corporation

MD of Lesser Slave River

JD Dennis

Community Member
Hamlet of Smith

Getting this bridge rebuilt in the near term is our foremost strategic priority as Councillors. The Province is well aware of our concerns, and I remain hopeful that our lobbying efforts will bear fruit.”

Lesser Slave River Reeve Murray Kerik