NewsMissoula County


MDT says no structural bridge problems from Russell Street “sinkhole”

Posted at 6:33 PM, Jan 03, 2019
and last updated 2019-01-04 13:25:01-05

MISSOULA – Engineers with the Montana Department of Transportation say there are no structural problems with a “sinkhole” that developed adjacent to the Russell Street Bridge tonight.

But they aren’t sure what caused the problem in the first place. Traffic in the northbound lanes of Russell Street had to be diverted for a time on Thursday evening after crews discovered a “hazard” on the heavily traveled route.

MTN News later learned it was in, in fact, 6′ long sinkhole that had opened up in the street.

Russell Street Bridge Sinkhole
The large hole prompted authorities to close off a section of Russell Street in Missoula on 1.3.19. Connor McCauley/MTN News photo)

Missoula Police say only one car was damaged before the street could be shut down. But the detour snarled rush hour traffic.

MDT construction engineer Bob Vosen says the contractors working on the bridge, Dick Anderson and Knife River, quickly dispatched crews who began making emergency repairs.

It turns out the 2′ foot deep hole wasn’t on the bridge deck itself, but on the street approach on the north end, climbing up to the bridge from West Broadway.

“I do want to assure everyone that this is not a structural problem with the bridge. There is no hole in the bridge deck like social media is saying. It was a sinkhole, or if you will a very large pothole developed in the roadway, not on the bridge,” Vosen said.

The Montana Department of Transportation issued the following statement Thursday night after a hole was discovered in the bridge deck on the Russell Street Bridge in Missoula:

The Montana Department of Transportation is currently fixing a sinkhole, which developed between 5:30 and 6 p.m. on January 3.  The sinkhole is located on the roadway immediately adjoining the north end of the existing Russell Street Bridge. It is approximately four-feet wide by six-feet long by two-feet deep. According to the Missoula Police Department, one vehicle did incur tire damage due to the sinkhole; no injuries have been reported at this time.

Traffic control is currently in-place to detour vehicles around the sinkhole. Two-way traffic is being facilitated on Russell Street with flaggers. Crews for Dick Anderson Construction, the prime contractor for the Russell Street – Broadway to Dakota project, are currently filling the hole with the goal of restoring two way-traffic by tomorrow morning.

Crews from the Montana Department of Transportation and Dick Anderson Construction are currently assessing the situation to determine the cause of the sinkhole.

“We are doing all we can to remedy this situation as quickly as possible,” Missoula District Construction Engineer, Bob Vosen, said. “Safety is always the priority and we will have our contractor thoroughly test the patch after it has been filled to ensure folks can travel safely through the Russell Street corridor.”

The Russell Street Bridge continues to be fully structurally sound. This is not affecting the bridge’s integrity.

(first report)

MISSOULA – The northbound lane of the Russell Street Bridge has been closed Thursday night after a hole was found in the bridge.

Traffic is being diverted eastbound onto Idaho Street and motorists are being asked to avoid the area. MTN News has not received any reports of any injuries.

Construction crews have arrived to repair the damage and the area will reopen to traffic once that work has been completed.

We have a reporter at the scene. This is a developing story.

 — information from Connor McCauley included in this report. 

Connor McCauley/MTN News photo.