MISSOULA – Montana Department of Transportation engineers say they haven’t shelved the idea of modifying or even replacing the busy Woodside Bridge in the Bitterroot Valley.
But they are continuing to do more research to solve the problem of “scouring”, where bridge modifications might make the span more vulnerable to washout…
“We’ve kind of taken a step back to do some much more detailed hydraulic analysis through that area,” said Ben Nunnalle with the Montana Department of Transportation.
“And to determine whether we can protect the existing bridge and then build the separate trail bridge alongside it. Or, if that’s not an option, then we’ll look a what the feasibility of building a brand new bridge that has the bridge on the highway bridge itself,” he added.
The state has been working with county officials for a solution to improve the bridge for the past several years.
The primary problems are the increasing amounts of traffic using the bridge to cross the Bitterroot River between Corvallis and US Highway 93, and pedestrian traffic.
The bridge has been a popular “swimming hole” for years, but that puts people at risk from climbing onto the bridge. And there’s no safe way for walkers to cross the span.
MDT engineers told Ravalli County commissioners this week they’re hoping to wrap up the hydraulics studies between now and the end of the summer. That should give the state the information it needs to develop an action plan.
“Some pretty in-depth hydraulic surveys that we’ll be doing there this summer. And then, this study will occur this fall and winter to figure out which options are feasible for how to proceed with that location,” Nunnalle said.
MDT also assured commissioners that the money the Corvallis community raised to help pay for the improvements is secure, and can still be used when the project is ready for construction.