‘More than just a river crossing’: Pedestrian bridge to replace Confederation Bridge in Smiths Falls may take a design turn

A pedestrian bridge will replace this decommissioned Confederation Bridge in Smiths Falls, and now council is considering different design options. – Laurie Weir photo

A single-span pedestrian bridge costing $1.36 million will soon replace the old Confederation Bridge in Smiths Falls, but the design may change.

Will it have a roof, a pedestrian look-out, or can it be constructed with wood? These were some of the questions asked during the Jan. 16 special committee of the whole meeting.

In his report to council, Paul McMunn, the town’s director of public works, presented some of the options that are available with the approximate $1.2 million for the bridge, including a wooden option with a roof.

McMunn said TSI (the engineer) presented some different options for the bridge, “but it would still be a similar style to what we had previously selected.”

The bridge will go from abutment to abutment and not use the centre pier. This is the decision that came out of the working group meeting, the director said. Council had decided at that time they would go with a bowstring bridge, painted black, with a concrete deck.

“That is subject to change at council’s discretion,” McMunn said. The engineer discovered when listening to council that they were looking for a more robust design that met its heritage factor, he noted.


A wooden bridge that McMunn showed was built in 2010 in British Columbia for about $1 million. “It has won a number of awards, (received) lots of accolades for the structure, and it has created very much a tourist destination … this is something we could 100 per cent do in town.”

A pedestrian bridge design like this “Bridge of Dreams” in British Columbia, is what may be considered to replace Confederation Bridge in Smiths Falls – Laurie Weir screengrab

McMunn noted that there might be some interest by council to take a step back and revisit some of the options.

“In early meetings, going back to last year, I think we had a collective vision of something that would be more of an experience,” said Mayor Pankow. “Something that would be potentially an attraction to our community – a place to enjoy the water.”

When meeting with the working group a couple of weeks ago to review options, Pankow said what he sees is an opportunity to do something different.

“If this bridge is going to be in our community for the next 100 years, and the fact that the bridge was decommissioned almost nine years ago now, if it takes a little bit longer to get it right, I would prefer to take a little bit longer and create something that we know will stand the test of time and will be more than just a river crossing.”

The mayor said he’d like to further explore options knowing that there are some grant opportunities available – one that is unique to wooden structures like they’re considering, “but I would like to advance discussion on this.”

Coun. Chris McGuire said it’s important to purchase a sustainable asset, not a disposable one.

“This is the first design I’ve seen I’ve seen that makes me feel like we could really do this in a memorable way,” said Coun. Jennifer Miller. “The wood would go so nicely with the stone … it makes sense to me, a lot more than steel, so I support getting more information on this design.”

Miller added that she has said this repeatedly, but she’s concerned about the delays of the project. “I’m eager to get this going, so hopefully we can keep in mind that this has been an eyesore in our community for a long time. It would be nice to see some progress on this sooner rather than later.”

Coun. Jay Brennan, who agreed with Coun. Dawn Quinn that they would have liked to have seen a vehicular bridge, said he’d like to see this get done “PDQ,” and well before the end of this term of council. He said he didn’t want to see it double in price and take another five years to complete.

Coun. Steve Robinson said he loved the design, but wondered about cost of maintenance for the wooden structure and how often would the town have to replace portions of it.

Coun. Peter McKenna, who chaired the meeting, suggested that staff look at cost of the wooden structure, design, and maintenance costs, and come back to council with an updated report; this was unanimously agreed by council.

McMunn said he’d come back with some costing options and more information in a couple of months, if not sooner.

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