The new Edmonton Smith Crossing Pedestrian Bridge makes Edmonton’s natural beauty accessible to Edmontonians.

Located over the river valley system in the city’s beautiful MacTaggart and Larch Sanctuaries, the new bridge, which opened in late 2023, replaced the original structure built in 1914 and then repurposed as a pedestrian bridge in 1961 for those who wish to walk, bike, and roll across the area.

In 1996 the bridge was named “Smith Crossing” to commemorate Robert and Elizabeth Smith and their family who were early settlers in the Rabbit Hill area. It faithfully served the surrounding communities, providing access to the MacTaggart and Larch Sanctuaries. The structure was replaced by a new bridge in 2023.
Overview and Significance of the Project

Nathan Stelmach provides an insightful overview of the project, tracing its origins back to 1914 when the original bridge was built by the Alberta government to facilitate transportation across Whitemud Creek. Repurposed as a pedestrian bridge in 1961 and later renamed “Smith Crossing” in 1996, in honour of Robert and Elizabeth Smith and their family—early settlers in the Rabbit Hill area. A part of the old bridge was preserved and is part of an interpretive plaque explaining the Smiths’ contribution to the area, a useful on-site visual tool that ties the old to the new.

The replacement of the aging bridge in 2023 marks a significant milestone in Edmonton’s infrastructure evolution. “The Smith Crossing Pedestrian Bridge project is not just about replacing an aging structure; it’s about ensuring continued connectivity and accessibility for our residents,” says Nathan Stelmach, Director of Transportation, Infrastructure and Delivery for the city of Edmonton. “This bridge holds historical significance and serves as a symbol of our commitment to enhancing community infrastructure.”

The decision to replace the bridge stemmed from a regular inspection revealing structural deficiencies, prompting the need for a modern, resilient replacement. The new bridge incorporates several engineering and design innovations aimed at enhancing safety, accessibility, and environmental sustainability.

“Hydraulic modeling of Whitemud Creek revealed potential flooding risks during large storm events,” says Stelmach. “To address this, the new bridge was elevated and elongated to accommodate high flow, ensuring safer passage for pedestrians and wildlife alike.”

Additionally, the bridge features a Methyl Methacrylate surfacing for improved traction and longevity, while its tied arch design seamlessly blends with the natural surroundings, embodying a harmonious coexistence between infrastructure and environment.

Despite encountering challenges such as flawed finishings and erosion during construction, the project team implemented innovative solutions to ensure timely completion. “By strategically planning construction activities around seasonal variations and streamlining fabrication and installation processes, we were able to deliver the project ahead of schedule,” says Stelmach. “It’s an example of how we’re building a healthy, vibrant city that provides opportunities for people to access, enjoy and connect to natural spaces.”

Following the bridge’s opening, community feedback has been overwhelmingly positive, with residents embracing the modern structure while cherishing the preservation of elements from the original bridge. “The bridge not only enhances connectivity but also serves as a focal point for community gatherings and celebrations,” says Stelmach, “further enriching the fabric of Edmonton’s cultural landscape.” And in terms of economic impact, the project has generated employment opportunities during construction and is expected to bolster property values and local businesses by enhancing connectivity and accessibility in the area.

Looking ahead, the City of Edmonton is committed to integrating the Smith Crossing Pedestrian Bridge into its broader infrastructure network, fostering connectivity, and promoting environmental stewardship. “The bridge’s strategic location aligns with our city’s vision of creating sustainable, accessible spaces that nurture community well-being,” says Stelmach. “As part of ongoing initiatives, we aim to further integrate the bridge into Edmonton’s trail network, facilitating seamless connectivity and enhancing residents’ quality of life.”