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South Fork Bridge opening turns into Christmas celebration for hundreds

Posted at 6:04 PM, Dec 18, 2018
and last updated 2018-12-18 20:04:31-05

HUNGRY HORSE – There was literal dancing in the street Tuesday, as residents of Hungry Horse and the “Canyon” communities celebrated the opening of the new bridge over the South Fork of the Flathead River.

It was an event decades in the making, and not even some rainy, cold weather was enough to damper the enthusiasm. Families showed up. Bike riders and walkers were on hand. Even Santa made an official appearance.

It was all to mark the official opening of the new $13 million bridge west of Hungry Horse, which replaces the old span that has carried millions and millions of cars over the past 80 years. And the new bridge has features never envisioned back in the 1930s, including a full lane walking and bike lane, and state-of-the-art features slated to last for the next 75 years.

But the bridge and the new highway re-alignment is all about safety too, fixing one of the most dangerous stretches of US 2 in Montana.

Dennis Bragg photo.

“Many of us through the last 30 years have known it was just a matter of time until that old bridge caved in,” said state Sen. Dee Brown (R-Hungry Horse). “My heartfelt thanks to the Highway Commission for targeting this as a project of great importance.”

After the ribbon cutting, Brown, who won the fire department’s fundraising raffle to be the first across the bridge, gathered friends and community members aboard the trolly for the celebration, punctuated by a “victory dance” halfway across.

The new bridge opened to traffic about an hour after the ribbon cutting.