The preferred option for a bridge over the Bitterroot River is a new structure planned at the end of South Avenue to replace the aging Maclay Bridge currently in place that connects River Pines Road to North Avenue.

(drawing of South Avenue Bridge from Missoula County website)

 

Missoula County Public Works Director Shane Stack was on the KGVO Newsmaker's line on Tuesday morning to talk about the project.

“Currently, we’re trying to complete a NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act) document,” said Stack. “Every time you’re spending federal dollars the NEPA process must be completed, so the CATEX (Categorical Exclusion) document is at the Montana Department of Transportation right now and they’re reviewing it and if they have any edits they’ll send it back to us, but if not, they’ll send that off to the Federal Highway Administration and the Montana office in Helena, and if they’re happy with it, they’ll sign off on the project.”

Stack clarified the scope of the bridge project.

“The question for the community is do you build a bridge at the end of South Avenue that crosses the river and connects to River Pines Road, or do you rehabilitate the existing structure, or do you build a separate bridge where the old bridge stands today,” he said. “If the new bridge is built at the end of South Avenue, the county is going to have to spend some time, effort and money to upgrade that roadway, but we’re already working on that and working with the locals to put a plan together.”

Stack provided a tentative timeline for the new bridge to be built, upon approval by the Montana Department of Transportation.

“The Montana Department of Transportation has this project in their tentative construction plan in 2024,” he said. “Right now the estimate is somewhere in the $15 million range. They’re still going through the process on that and it will be determined with the NEPA document, but the plan would be to remove the old structure.”

A press releases states that ‘The commissioners do not need to vote on whether to move forward with the South Avenue Bridge. Unless MDT or FHWA determines a heightened level of environmental review is warranted, the project is on track for construction to start in 2024. The bridge, estimated to cost up to $15.4 million, will divert traffic away from the Maclay Bridge that currently connects River Pines Road to North Avenue.’