The plan to build a new South Avenue bridge in Missoula moved ahead, after county commissioners submitted their environmental analysis to the Montana Department of Transportation for review.
The South Avenue Bridge would cross the Bitterroot River at the end of South Avenue to River Pines Road. This would replace the aging one lane Maclay Bridge located on North Avenue.
“We’re happy with how quickly our engineering firm, Public Works staff and the commissioners were able to make the edits required by the state and federal agencies to keep the process moving forward,” said Shane Stack, Missoula County Public Works director. “This process represents the county’s responsibility in providing input any time we take on a major public project like this.”
The proposed project has been years in the making, with heated debates on both sides of this issue.
The next step in this process is for the Department of Transportation to review the environmental analysis provided by the county.
If the state signs off, the documents will advance to the Federal Highway Administration for review and approval. So unless MDT or the Federal Highway Administration determine they need a more complex environmental review, the project is on track for construction to start in 2024.
“We look forward to receiving any additional feedback from MDT and FHWA on the project as it proceeds through the established review process, and we will continue to provide input as the process moves forward,” commissioner Dave Strohmaier said. “To be clear, the county commissioners do not need take a vote on the project as it moves through the review process, and at no point have we voted or taken action that puts local tax dollars at risk.”
Once FHWA signs the categorical exclusion, HDR, the engineering firm the county hired for the project, will start finalizing the design for the South Avenue Bridge. Then the project will proceed as follows:
- When the design is approximately 60 to 70 percent complete, MDT and Missoula County will discuss utility relocation and right-of-way acquisition. MDT can perform this phase, or the county can become certified to complete it.
- When the design is approximately 90 percent complete, Missoula County and MDT will discuss the construction phase. Again, MDT can perform this phase, or the county can become certified to complete it.
- The design phase, which will include opportunities for public comment, is expected to be complete by August 2020.
- The project will go out for bid, followed by construction. Either MDT or Missoula County can administer this phase.
The project, estimated to cost up to $15.4 million, will be paid for with federal gas tax funds through MDT’s Off-System Bridge program. It will divert traffic away from the Maclay Bridge that currently connects River Pines Road to North Avenue.
The documents are available South Ave. Bridge Project Documents