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UPDATE: Downtown Bigfork bridge temporarily closed

by HEIDI DESCH
Hagadone News Network | March 22, 2022 10:00 AM

UPDATE: MDT says crews have experienced drilling equipment issues that have delayed their work. The Bridge Street Bridge will now remain closed until the end of the day tomorrow, April 1, and possibly, until mid-day Saturday, April 2. Officials say every effort is being made to complete the drilling work and open the bridge as soon as possible.

Original post: Bigfork’s bridge on Bridge Street that spans the Swan River will be temporarily closed to vehicle and pedestrian traffic beginning on Monday.

The bridge connects downtown Bigfork to Montana 35 and will be closed while contractors conduct a geotechnical survey of the site.

Plans are underway to replace the bridge, and as part of the pre-construction process, Montana Department of Transportation (MDT) crews and Tetra Tech, Inc. contractors will be conducting work during the closure.

“We continue to move ahead with plans to replace the current bridge, and the information this geotechnical survey will provide is an important step towards that goal,” Bob Vosen, MDT Missoula District Administrator, said. “We thank the community for their support and cooperation while we complete the survey and encourage residents to reach out with any questions or concerns.”

Engineers will be drilling around the bridge's foundation and in the park area on the northeast side of the bridge between the road and the gazebo to collect geotechnical information — the physical characteristics of the soil and rock in the area.

The work will begin on Monday, March 28, and occur during daylight hours between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m.

However, the schedule is subject to change due to the weather or unforeseen factors, MDT notes.

The closure will only affect the areas immediately adjacent to the bridge and the bridge itself. Crews will begin drilling on the southwest side of the bridge and then move to the northeast side. The entrances of area residences and businesses will not be affected.

The entrance to Sliter’s Park may be periodically blocked by equipment during work hours. Areas deemed hazardous during drilling will be closed off until drilling in that area is complete.

To access downtown Bigfork, drivers and pedestrians will be detoured to Grand Drive. Closure and detour route signage will be placed on the corner of Montana 35 and Bridge Street and along Grand Drive and Bridge Street approaching the bridge from downtown.

The current bridge on Bridge Street is at the end of its service life and not designed for heavy loads, according to a release from MDT.

MDT plans to replace the structure with one that will allow heavier loads, including emergency vehicles, and honors the past iconic bridge with a matching steel truss shape and single travel lane. The new bridge will also feature an ADA-compliant pedestrian walkway. Construction is anticipated to start in 2024.

The existing bridge was built in 1911 by the American Bridge Company of Minneapolis, Minnesota. This bridge is listed on the National Register of Historic Places

For questions or concerns, email Sloane Stinson at Sloane@bigskypublicrelations.com or call the project hotline at 406-207-4484, operating Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information about the project, visit https://www.mdt.mt.gov/pubinvolve/bigforkbridge/.