By Martin Kidston/Missoula Current
After a short weather delay, work on the Madison Street bridge kicked off on Tuesday morning, as crews began diverting traffic and backhoes began excavating.
The $7 million reconstruction project is expected to last until September, and commuters are urged to find alternative routes.
Mountain Line also is urging its passengers to make extra time.
“Mountain Line will be using the bridge as normal, but we are expecting some delays, especially at first until traffic adjusts,” said Bill Pfeiffer with Mountain Line. “Routes 1 and 12 use the bridge directly and could see delays crossing.”
Pfeiffer said Routes 4 and 5 also pass through the Broadway-Madison intersection. As a result, those routes could see delays caused by traffic waiting to cross the bridge.
The construction area extends from Front Street to South Fifth Street.
“We’re recommending that our passengers, especially those who use routes in this area, allow extra time on their commute,” said Pfeiffer. “In some cases, it may be necessary to catch an earlier bus.”
Erected in 1958, the bridge was deemed structurally deficient in August, roughly six months after a piece of concrete broke loose and fell to the riverbank below. That forced the Montana Department of Transportation to expedite the reconstruction effort and complete the work before next fall.
During construction, four lanes of traffic will be reduced to two lanes on one half of the bridge during the first phase. Traffic will shift to the other half of the bridge later this year as crews replace the decking and rehabilitate the aging structure.
The project was slated to begin last week, but subzero temperatures and snow prompted a delay. The project’s general contractor, Frontier West, aims to have the project finished by September, before the University of Montana football season opens at home.