Flathead County Approves Bigfork Bridge Design, Replacement

The design includes modern construction while maintaining the bridge’s architectural look

By Molly Priddy
Swan River Bridge. Beacon File Photo

The Flathead County Commission is moving forward with the project to replace the historic one-lane bridge in Bigfork, with a vote to approve a new bridge design and forwarding that information to the state Department of Transportation.

At its April 13 meeting, the commission voted to approve what the bridge’s steering committee dubbed Option Seven, which means a complete rebuild but sticking to the original, one-lane design spanning the Swan River. The design includes modern construction while maintaining the bridge’s architectural look.

Dave Prunty, director of Flathead County’s Public Works Department, said the steering committee worked hard with KLJ Engineering on the project, hosting meetings and getting the public’s opinion on design proposals.

The new structure will be a drive-through truss bridge with a much larger carrying capacity than the existing steel bridge’s three-ton limit, which is the lowest weight limit allowed before a bridge is shut down. The current bridge is more than a century old.

“It’ll be a modern bridge with a 75-year design life,” Prunty told the commissioners. “Everybody got to the point of agreeing that a one-lane bridge is acceptable in the uniqueness that is Bigfork.”

Commissioners Pam Holmquist and Gary Krueger thanked the steering committee for its work and voted 2-0 to approve the design plan and send the request to MDT. Commissioner Phil Mitchell was not present.

Prunty said the state would now be able to begin drawing up an engineering plan, but the project is likely three to seven years from completion, depending on how many other projects are in MDT’s queue.

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