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Infrastructure

Two Bigfork Bridges to be Replaced

Montana Department of Transportation holds holiday informational events

By Micah Drew
Swan River Bridge. Beacon File Photo

The Montana Department of Transportation (MDT) held [MD1] a holiday-themed informational session for two bridge projects in the Bigfork area on Dec. 11.

The event, held at Sliter’s Park in Bigfork, offered bridge-themed goodie bags and information on the Bridge Street Bridge and Sportsman’s Bridge projects, as well as allowed visitors to donate to the Bigfork Food Bank.

“We are hoping to engage with our community and build excitement for the two Bigfork bridge projects,” MDT District 1 Administrator Bob Vosen said in a press release prior to the event. “We encourage the public to stay informed on the progress of the projects and reach out if you have any comments, questions, or concerns. It’s also a great time to wish everyone well and a happy holiday season.”

In Bigfork, Bridge Street crosses the Swan River via an iconic 110-year-old one-lane steel bridge with a separate walkway. Flathead County and MDT identified the bridge as a structure in need of repair or replacement in a 2017 feasibility study.

The study showed that due to time, corrosion and damage the bridge was no longer able to carry heavier vehicles and had a three-ton load maximum. Without substantial repairs, the bridge’s load capacity would continue to decline and the bridge would need to be closed to avoid failure. Currently, emergency response vehicles and heavy county equipment, such as snow plows, are unable to use the structure.

The historic bridge will be replaced with a 120-foot steel truss structure that will maintain a similar aesthetic. The sidewalk on the updated bridge will be widened to meet ADA standards.

Construction is slated to begin in 2024 and take approximately six months to complete.

The other MDT project in the area is the replacement of the Sportsman’s Bridge along Montana Highway 82 spanning the Flathead River.

The bridge, which was built in 1955, was identified a decade ago as unsuitable for the growing population and tourism influx in the Flathead Valley and MDT plans to replace the 686-foot-long bridge with a new 706-foot-long structure. The new bridge will have two 12-foot travel lanes and two 10-foot-shoulders and will be constructed just south of the existing structure.

Work began on the project during the fall, with crews conducting geotechnical and utility surveys. MDT expects to complete final design work on the bridge in the summer of 2022 with construction slated to begin in 2023.

The shifting of Sportsman’s Bridge to the south will impact the fishing access site along the east bank of the Flathead River, but MDT is working with Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP) to construct a new access site that will be built in the same general area. The new site will accommodate 28 trucks and trailers as well as eight standard vehicles and have an ADA accessible bathroom facility in addition to the current restroom, which will be relocated. The site will be accessed via Hanging Rock Drive where new turn lanes from Highway 82 will be constructed.

The evening sunset is reflected in the high water of the Flathead River surrounding Sportsman’s Bridge on State Highway 82. Beacon file photo

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