NewsMissoula County


MDT: Downtown bridge girders were ‘cut’ during deconstruction; delay expected

Higgins Bridge
Posted at 9:27 AM, Jul 22, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-22 11:32:33-04

MISSOULA — The rehabilitation of Beartracks Bridge in downtown Missoula may be delayed after the Montana Department of Transportation discovered that several bridge girders were inadvertently cut during the deconstruction process.

The backlog of materials needed to make the necessary repairs could delay the structure’s completion, the agency said in a statement issued Thursday. The cost of repairs remains undetermined.

“While we fully acknowledge that these cuts are setbacks, we remain committed to delivering a safe, fully rehabilitated bridge that will carry all legal loads. Crews continue to make strong progress on the eastern span of the bridge,” said Bob Vosen, Missoula District administrator for MDT.

The contractor, Sletten Construction, began deconstructing the bridge deck earlier this year and recently completed most of the western section. When it moved on to the eastern section, MDT raised concerns over what it said were issues with steel and concrete.

Earlier this month, the agency placed a 10-ton weight restriction on the bridge while it investigated the structural problems.

On Thursday, MDT said shallow cuts were made into the bridge girders during the deconstruction process. The agency said repairs had been made, but further analysis found that the repairs were insufficient. The full weight rating couldn’t be restored as a result.

The 10-ton limit has forced other agencies, including Mountain Line and Missoula Fire to alter their routes. Vosen said MDT is working with Sletten Construction to “address the cuts and make appropriate repairs.”

“As we identify deficiencies, we address them,” he said.

MDT has contracted Fickett Structural Solutions to perform additional testing on the bridge. And while repairs are planned to the damaged girders, getting the parts may take time.

“A timeframe to make these repairs has not yet been determined and material availability could play a role as to when the work will be completed,” the agency said. “Once a repair plan is determined, MDT will notify the public of the schedule and cost of the repairs.”

Click here to learn more about the bridge reconstruction project.