With the unusual mild winter, conditions are ideal for wrapping up Missoula's largest construction project. If the winter stays this way, Missoula will be using all of the new Russell Street Bridge by late spring.
The bridge deck is nearly complete, with crews from Dick Anderson Construction and its contractors preparing to start pouring concrete within days.
"That concrete's going to have to get poured in multiple phases," said John Schmidt, MDT Missoula construction engineer. "And hopefully we're done with that about that first week in February."
That's all weather dependent, Schmidt says temperatures need to be above freezing for a good pour.
The deck is partially wrapped in plastic now to prevent the formation of snow and ice, which would require heaters to thaw before the concrete can be applied with a massive moving span
"The mild weather's really helped. It's really given Dick Anderson a chance to really push and do a great job to help get things done a little earlier in the spring," Schmidt said.
Cars could be using the entire bridge as soon as April or May.
Overall it's taking a lot of combined effort to meet that goal.
"All the contractors that are working on the project are doing a great job, and through some difficult conditions," said Schmidt. "You know, it's not easy working through the winter, and they've done a great job."
The progress building the second half of the new Russell Street Bridge has occurred over the past few months. At the end of summer, the top of the downstream half of the bridge was just taking shape.
The state tells MTN News that they are not only happy with the progress of construction, but also with the continued cooperation of the thousands of cars who continue to use this corridor through the months of construction.
Things get a little tricky in the winter and it's harder to drive and maintain your focus, especially when all that work is going on right next to you. So we just really appreciate everybody paying attention and staying safe," said Schmidt.
Once the deck is poured, MDT says it will take several weeks to finish the railings and other features before the new bridge is ready to use.