MDT awards $16.6M Higgins Bridge project; work set to begin in October

An artist’s rendering of the newly renovated Higgins Avenue bridge. Work is set to begin this October.

After an initial delay due to questions over cost, the Montana Department of Transportation on Tuesday awarded its contract for the rehabilitation of the Higgins Avenue bridge.

Sletten Construction will begin the $16.5 million overhaul this fall.

“While we had hoped to be under construction already, MDT went back to the contracting community and our partners to develop a better schedule,” said Bob Vosen, administrator of the Missoula District. “This allowed us to mitigate risks for the contractor while also keeping the needs of the traveling public and the downtown community in mind.”

Crews will begin working on the southbound lanes of the bridge in October. Traffic will move to the northbound lanes during the first phase, with construction running all winter.

Phase 2 will begin in May 2021 as traffic moves to the southbound lanes. The entire project is slated for completion in the spring of 2022.

The Montana Department of Transportation initially opened bids for the project last December. But only one bid was received and it came it at $37.7 million – far over the $17 million budget.

High cost and the ability to adjust the contract to secure lower bids were cited as the main reason the commission did not vote to award the project. As a result, construction on the Higgins Avenue bridge did not start as planned in January.

“We know not having the bridge under construction sooner was frustrating, but we are fully confident this is a better schedule and look forward to delivering a new Higgins Avenue bridge by the end of next year,” said Vosen.

The project looks to rehabilitate the deterioration that’s taken place over the structure’s 56 years of service. That includes replacing the deck and repairing the superstructure and concrete supports.

Beyond the essential repairs, plans also include widening the deck to create more space for pedestrians and bicyclists. Sidewalks will be widened from 4 feet to 13 feet on both sides.

MDT has said the bridge remains structurally sound.