The Solution

Build a clear span bridge across the Elbow River valley.

This low environmental impact bridge, complies with floodplain management best practices, i.e. it facilitates proper flood flow conveyance, it allows the river valley to act as sponge and absorb and store water, it does not put upstream homes at risk, in times of flooding it will recharge the nutrient supply in the Weaselhead Natural Park, it does not fragment the valley, and it does not harm the biodiversity that inhabit this valley. Moreover, this design complies with the recommendations made to the Alberta Government by experts in the field of floodplain and watershed management.


An example of a clear span bridge - Macleay River and Floodplain Bridge, Australia



  • The City of Calgary Transportation Plan on page B-2 states, "A clear span bridge is usually the preferred type of crossing because it typically causes less impact to watercourse and floodplain functions".


  • Klohn Crippen Berger have stated that the design philosophy should be to protect the infrastructure (i.e. road embankment, bridge piers and abutments, and stormwater ponds) to an appropriate level, rather than to attempt to control the river.


"Governments have attempted to alleviate flood situations in Canada by building protective dykes and creating upstream storage, and through emergency aid and disaster assistance. Although many of these measures are beneficial, they also serve to encourage further encroachment upon river floodplains, thereby raising the potential for flood damage and leading to requests for greater levels of protection. In other words, the structural solution is only a partial one; the only long-term solution consists of keeping flood-vulnerable development and uses out of the floodplain. This non-structural approach has gained wide acceptance, since it reduces the need for expensive flood control structures and the demand for disaster assistance payments caused by flood damage. The approach includes

    • regulating land use in the floodplain;
    • floodproofing measures;
    • acquiring property in the floodplain or relocating structures;
    • altering upstream land management practices; and
    • establishing and maintaining flood forecasting and warning systems".



  • Alberta Transportation at the 2015 Transportation Association of Canada conference states, "Current design standards and practices may not reflect the demands imposed by repeated extreme weather conditions. A shift from continually repairing highway infrastructure to building more robust, and capital intensive, engineering designs may be required. Design philosophies that are based on historic 1:100 design events or similar antecedent events will have to be recalibrated to match the new norm and recalibration will have to be done frequently to keep pace with the increasing frequency of extreme events".


  • Modern bridge building is much more than concrete, steel and money. The overall socioeconomic impact, influence on people migration, traffic, use of primary materials, safety of construction impact on the environment, energy, risk scenarios, health, and climate and CO2 emissions, are among the parameters which enter into the decision process at the overall holistic conceptual level, the more detailed level of selection of bridge sites, and selection of bridge types as well as construction methods and selection of materials and products.




  • The Scottish Environmental Protection Agency River Crossings, Good Practice Guide states, "The most cost-effective solution is the one that minimizes environmental harm or maximizes environmental benefit at a proportionate cost".


  • Alberta Transportation should use an integrated framework with options analysis for selection of the bridge design. This approach should incorporate the best practices from the City of Calgary’s Triple Bottom Line, however, this economic, environmental and social evaluation model should also include engineering as an attribute. The integrated multi-disciplinary approach to design can result in a sustainable bridge that can stand the test of time;  a bridge that becomes a point of pride for the citizens of Calgary and a design that draws people to the river valley. Further, for bridges spanning a sensitive ecosystem, then the environmental attribute should have a higher weighting in the evaluation process.


  • Bridges should harmonize with their surroundings. Developing a bridge to blend with its surrounding area is a concept that all designers should consider at the beginning of their project. We believe that this is even more important when a bridge crosses a sensitive environmental area.


  • The design approach should build off of the approach used by the City of Edmonton to build the Walterdale Bridge Replacement bridge, i.e. it needs to stand the test of time; it should be a point of pride for the citizens of Calgary and a design that draws people to the river valley.


  • The design and construction process should minimize any adverse impacts on the ecosystem, the biodiversity that inhabits this system, the floodplain, and water supply both for today and tomorrow.


  • Appendix B of the City of Calgary Transportation Plan states, "All transportation crossings of rivers and creeks require the construction of culverts, piers and bridges, and have the potential to affect riparian areas and river and creek habitats. For these reasons, the need for river and creek crossings must be balanced with impacts to the environment and be treated with the utmost environmental sensitivity".


  • The design should be forward looking and endeavor to incorporate a platform for rapid transit (LRT) and multi-user pathways.


  • Alberta Transportation  should be investing as much in the Elbow River Bridge, as they have in the Bow River Bridge and/or other bridges and interchanges in this Province, as right now the design appears to be totally driven by the least expensive upfront cost, as opposed to incorporating the environment, social costs, and damages.


  • At the June 28, 2017 Information Session at the United Church in Lakeview, members of the Alberta Transportation engineering team were asked a simple question, "does the Elbow River bridge crossing comply with floodplain management best practices?".  The answer was NO.  Consequently, we urge these engineers and the policy makers to visit the Reports section of this website and review the documents listed under "floodplain management best practices".  


Here are some renderings of the SWCRR Bridge when the intent was to use 37th Street SW.  While we are not requesting a suspension bridge, the intent was to build a clear span bridge and not a road embankment/dam.




  • There is still time to get this right.  Further, working in consultation with all stakeholders will ensure that this project is not only built right, the right way, the first time, and with respect for the respect for the environment and the biodiversity, but that it comes in on schedule and on budget.






Embrace Technology and Best Practices


New Bridge Technologies (Low Environmental Impact):

These processes that embrace modern technology are not only "low environmental impact", they save time and in the long run may be less expensive.

a) The SLJ900/32, or the Segmental Bridge Launching Machine

b) Alconetar Bridge - Construction Process

c) Incremental Launching Process

d) Full Span Launching