Martin Kidston

(Missoula Current) Missoula County on Thursday approved a number of agreements directed at several ailing bridges and signed a letter to the federal government hoping to land up to $25 million in additional funding.

Among the agreements, commissioners approved an addendum to an earlier agreement with the Montana Department of Transportation, increasing the total funding provided to the county for repairs on the Maclay and Rock Creek bridges.

The county closed Maclay Bridge in January citing structural issues that make it unsafe for travel. It also placed the Rock Creek Bridge over the Clark Fork River under “scour critical” status after a state inspection found that erosion could threaten the bridge abutments.

“MDT manages the funding from Senate Bill 536 and is offering to provide $200,000 for mitigation efforts for scouring on Rock Creek Bridge, and $70,000 for repairs to the Maclay Bridge,” said Shane Stack, the county's director of Public Works. “We've ordered the materials and are waiting for those to arrive.”

The state's additional contribution brings funding for the two projects to $308,000, according to the county.

On Thursday, commissioners also approved a similar amendment for work on Boy Scout Road Bridge in Seeley Lake. The county closed the bridge in November, also citing structural issues. At the time, the county said a state inspection had found deterioration of the timber piling foundation, which affected the bridge's load capacity.

To replace the damaged piling, the county hired a firm to conduct a soil test below the structure to determine the cost of repairs. It had initially intended to bore 50 feet but had to go deeper, increasing the cost of the test by nearly $7,000, Stack said.

“There were concerns the soil wasn't as stable as assumed,” said Stack. “When they got out there, they originally planned on going 50 feet on either side of the bridge. But given the soils they encountered, they ended up going 100 feet on the Seeley side and 70 feet on the opposite side of the bridge.”

The soil tests on Boy Scout Road Bridge and inspections on several other county bridges have brought the true cost of repairs in scope. On Thursday, the county signed a letter to the U.S. Department of Transportation, requesting $25 million in federal funding from a grant through the Rebuilding America's Infrastructure program.

The county has committed to provide a $1 million match to the grant from state funding and has secured the remaining project balance of $3.1 million with local funding. Stack said the county would know if its grant application is successful this summer.