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Confederation Drive Bridge

Confederation Drive Bridge

Primary Photographer(s): Nathan Holth and Rick McOmber

Bridge Documented: July 20, 2013

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Smiths Falls: Lanark County, Ontario: Canada
Construction Date and Builder / Engineer
1904 By Builder/Contractor: Locomotive and Machine Company of Montréal, Québec
Rehabilitation Date
Not Available or Not Applicable
Main Span Length
78.0 Feet (23.8 Meters)
Structure Length
159.0 Feet (48.5 Meters)
Roadway Width
16 Feet (4.88 Meters)
2 Main Span(s)
Inventory Number
Not Applicable

Historic Significance Rating (HSR)
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Bridge Documentation

This bridge's future is at risk!

Bridge Status: This heritage bridge is at risk for demolition and replacement! This vehicular truss capable of being restored to serve pedestrians another 100 years will instead be pointlessly demolished and replaced with a mass-produced, mundane pre-fab welded truss under the false guise of "looking historic" which is a false statement. The replacement bridge "might" last 50 years if no salt is applied, although examples of these "Wal-Mart" quality bridges falling to pieces in 25 years (Meadville, Pennsylvania) are documented.

This bridge is an uncommon example of a multi-span pony truss. Pony truss bridges tend to be single span structures more often. The bridge is traditionally composed, and overall retains decent historic integrity with no severe alterations, although it was noted that prior repairs had replaced some rivets with bolts. Based on review of the 2020 report, it appears the sidewalk cantilevers are riveted and thus the sidewalk appears to be original to the bridge.

Although the construction date for many of Ontario's rivet-connected truss bridges is unknown (at least to HistoricBridges.org), this bridge appears to be a very old surviving example of a rivet-connected truss bridge. Earlier truss bridges were typically pin-connected. The more rigid rivet-connected truss bridge represented an advancement in bridge construction.

For a small city, Smiths Falls has an impressive collection of heritage bridges, encompassing a wide variety of structure types including stone arch, fixed plate girder, bascule plate girder, plate girder swing, and this pony truss bridge. Despite this variety, this is the only example of a truss bridge. As such, this bridge is an important contributor to the unique variety of bridges here. This is why it is of great concern that a 2013 report recommended demolition and replacement of this bridge on the basis that it could not be rehabilitated to carry full legal loads. It is hoped that plans to demolish and replace this bridge will be halted. Instead, this bridge could be rehabilitated for light vehicular use, something that should be both feasible and cost-effective. This is not the main road through town, and it is not apparent that a lot of heavy trucks need to use this road. Another solution would be to preserve the bridge for pedestrian use. This could be done while building a new vehicular bridge next to this bridge, closing the crossing to motor vehicles permanently, or relocating the reusing the bridge elsewhere. Whatever the case, to maintain the unique collection of bridges in Smiths Falls, and to preserve this attractive pony truss, demolition needs to be reconsidered.

As of 2020, the bridge remains at risk for demolition and replacement, although there has developed a community interest in seeing the bridge preserved. A new report on the condition of the bridge and alternatives for the bridge was published in 2020. One alarming and presumably highly misleading statement in this report is a proposal (and recommended alternative in the report) to "Clone" the bridge at a lesser cost than rehabilitation. The alternative is described as "Clone – (Replace exactly in Kind)" which is likely a highly inaccurate statement. Typically when an engineer proposes replacing a heritage truss with a "replica" what they mean is to recreate a truss using modern steel sections and connection details. To replicate a bridge like this in-kind would likely cost more than rehabilitation. Why? Because of the specialty work required to produce "Replace exactly in Kind" the heritage bridge. The bridge would become only the third bridge in modern Canadian history to use historically accurate hot riveting to exactly "clone" the bridge's historically significant riveted construction. Each member of the bridge would have to be custom-fabricated by a steel fabricator to replicate the built-up beams which distinguish this heritage truss bridge from modern truss bridges, thus all the angles, lacing bars, and battens would have to be fabricated including hot riveting. These riveted, fabricated sections would then have to be riveted together on gusset plates, matching the design of the heritage bridge. Depending on the construction sequence, this may require field riveting as well as well as the shop riveting. If this is indeed what the engineer is proposing by  "Clone – (Replace exactly in Kind)" than this would likely be the first such bridge in Canada: a modern replica of a heritage truss bridge. Note that some canal bridges in Ontario have been replaced with modern trusses with the built-up sections simulating the heritage trusses, however these have, to date, always been of modern bolted constructions, and while they are similar in overall appearance, they are not a "Clone – (Replace exactly in Kind)" and in either case as modern structures they have no heritage significance. Only by rehabilitating the existing bridge can the bridge retain heritage significance. Rehabilitation, if needed could still involve partial replacement of deteriorated components, such as the bottom chord and lower lateral bracing. Rehabilitation is the best way for Smiths Falls to retain a heritage bridge. It is HistoricBridges.org's strong recommendation that for the benefit of the general public, and in good faith to avoid misleading and confusing statements to the public, that the 2020 Report be revised to better explain the alternatives being presented. If the "Clone – (Replace exactly in Kind)" is indeed an in-kind replica, the description needs to confirm that built-up members will be replicated with lacing and battens, and that hot rivets will be used as the fastener type. If this is not the case (as HistoricBridges.org suspects) than the alternative needs to be renamed to something less misleading, such as "Replace With Modern Truss, Retaining Some Design Similarities) and then the alternative needs to better explain exactly what will be the same and what will be different. A 3D rendering, showing a side-by-side comparison should also be included. 

View A 2013 Report That Claims This Bridge Should Be Replaced

View A 2020 Condition Report and Alternatives Analysis For This Bridge


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