The Montana Department of Transportation’s work on the bridges in Missoula continues.

The Madison Street Bridge was completed first, due to the deterioration issue discovered in 2016. The Russell Street Bridge, a $29 million project, continues through the winter, and the Higgins Avenue Bridge is undergoing further review after an initial estimate turned out to be over twice the original.

On Friday, Missoula District Administrator Bob Vosen provided an update on the nearly completed Russell Street Bridge project.

“We’re really plugging along,” said Vosen. “We’ve had a pretty good start to the winter and we’re getting pretty close to being able to pour the deck. The contractors are looking for a good weather window to perform that in, and we’re hoping to have that bridge deck open by early spring.”

Vosen explained what happened to the Higgins Avenue Bridge rehabilitation project that has been postponed temporarily.

“We just met internally recently, and we’ve been looking at what caused the price to come in as high as it did,” he said. “We also spoke with our contracting community and we’re trying to come up with a way to remove risk and maybe be not quite as aggressive with the schedule. There were some issues early on with procurement of materials and timing between the letting and the start of the contract work days.”

Vosen said they’ll revisit the bidding and letting process in the spring.

“We’re going to try to get that project advertised later on this spring,” he said. “We’re hopeful that we can actually get the construction started later on the fall of 2020, perhaps in October. That’s the date we’re shooting for.”

Vosen said part of the problem with the previous bidding process was due to global demand on construction materials.

“We’re in a global market,” he said. “We had put our original estimate together and we ended up letting it later in the year than what we wanted. This time, we’ll be making sure that suppliers can still meet this product in a reasonable time frame, closer to when we bid it, so MDT’s certainly going to take the lessons we’ve learned, such as what it means to be part of a global market. In particular, items like having steel manufactured. Is there anyone locally that can do it, or is it going to have to come from out of state?”

Vosen said the Higgins Avenue Bridge is stable enough now so that there is no urgent safety issue forcing the schedule to move forward.

“What we’re looking at now is that if we can get started in the fall of 2020, we’ll be working through all of 2020, and through the summer and fall of 2021 and then wrap things up in the spring of 2022,” he said. “Our hope is that we can have it (the bridge) fully functional by Christmas of 2021.”


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