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Drivers face 90-minute detour as Smith Bridge in northern Alberta deteriorates

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An old bridge in northern Alberta is in urgent need of major — and costly — repairs. In fact, the local reeve says a complete replacement is needed — not only to keep the town alive, but also to provide a connection to tourism and oil and logging industries.

It’s estimated a replacement bridge would cost about $80 million, something the municipality cannot afford.

However, those who live in the Municipal District of Lesser Slave River No. 124 say Smith Bridge is critical. The 2021 census shows about 3,000 people live in this region.

“We definitely need this bridge,” resident Paula Bird said. “If I forget to gas up in town, without the bridge I’d have to have enough gas to go back to Slave Lake.

“It’s not paved. It’s gravel,” she said of the road to Slave Lake. “It’s not the best road, especially when you’re meeting logging trucks.”

Bird said if the bridge is gone, she’d probably have to relocate.

“It wouldn’t be financially viable for me to live out here.”

The bridge was built in 1945 by the U.S. Army during the construction of the Alaska Highway. Traffic volume is low — just 280 vehicles per day, according to the Alberta…

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