Additional height restrictions have been implemented on the historic bridge near the Bigfork Village, according to Flathead County Public Works Director David Prunty. The new restrictions will keep large trucks and service vehicles off the bridge in an attempt to extend its lifespan.
“It’s not built to be handling those big delivery trucks or work trucks loaded up with material,” Prunty said. “A lot of citizens are protective of that bridge and they want to keep it.”
A few weeks ago, two plastic pipes were hung on each side of the thru-truss bridge to prevent high vehicles from passing through. The plastic guards are set 8 feet, 6 inches above the roadway. Prunty said the county road department received calls from concerned citizens about large vehicles going over the bridge. The bridge was built in 1911 by A.Y. Bayes and Company of Minnesota. It’s approximately 100 feet long and one lane wide.
According to Prunty, the county owns the bridge but it is inspected by the Montana Department of Transportation. During the last inspection, new weight restrictions were implemented, with a maximum weight of three tons.
“Pickups and small vehicles are the only thing we want using the bridge,” he said.
As one of the oldest bridges still in use in Flathead County, it may have to be replaced in the coming years. The average age of a bridge in the United States is 44 years. The average lifespan of a bridge is 50 years, according to Transportation For America spokesperson David Goldberg. According to the transportation advocacy group, almost 8 percent of Montana’s bridges are considered “deficient.” According to MDT, there are more than two-dozen structurally deficient bridges in Northwest Montana.
Prunty said people are starting to be aware of the new high restrictions, although county road crews have had to go out a few times to rehang the pipes after they were knocked down by passing trucks.
“You’d hope people would see it, but I guess old habits die hard,” he said.
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