MISSOULA — Missoula's only remaining "old" bridge across the Clark Fork River is ready for her facelift.
While it promises to be just over a year of disruption, the benefits will last for decades
“Exciting, you know, to get yet another one of Missoula's bridges. Get that thing rehabbed. Get it back into good shape," said Missoula Department of Transpoertation Missoula District Administrator Bob Vosen.
MDT had been working on plans to rehabilitate the Higgins Bridge for the past several years and had planned to get construction underway shortly after the first of the year.
But after bids for the project came in millions of dollars over the engineer's original estimates, the state was forced to go back to the drawing board and re-working some details on the project.
While that saved a lot of money, but it also meant the project had to be delayed until this fall.
“We really, definitely cut no corners as far as from a construction standpoint. We're still using the same materials, still using the same construction methods, providing a little longer time to do it," said Vosen.
Once the work starts on Oct. 5, it will adhere to the original timeline, preserving all of the work and community planning that had been accomplished.
“Absolutely, you know all the work that was put in by everyone to work together with all the different user groups and the land owners in the city," Vosen said. "And we're still able to meet our schedule that we had originally planned. We were just delayed a year.”
The work will follow the same pattern as the rebuilding of the Madison Street Bridge and construction of the new Russell Street Bridge.
During the the first phase, contractors will replace and widen the bridge deck, starting on the west side of the bridge near the Wilma Theater, with traffic shifted over to sharing the current lanes on the eastern, or upstream side of the bridge.
Then, about next May, the second half of the bridge will be rebuilt.
“The traffic lanes will stay roughly the same, but we're going to have so much of a better-shared use path on each side of that and better access for everyone to use the bridge. And have replaced the deck on it. So I guess gets us another 75 years out there," said Vosen.
The project should be wrapped up by December 2021.