Martin Kidston

(Missoula Current) The cost to complete repairs on the Northside Pedestrian Bridge continue to climb, but members of the Missoula City Council said the project's budget will cover such contingencies and that work will still be finished by mid-summer.

Council members on Wednesday approved two change orders related to the work, including an additional $259,000 related to winter scheduling and $56,000 for city permitting and changing construction needs.

“We're running into a lot more rust than we thought we would,” said David Selvage, the city's superintendent of park services and systems. “We're re-sequencing our fair-weather work to the spring. We're providing an allowance to do cold-weather work for the extra costs. We could get some of that back, but we're not going to step over a dollar to pick up a dime.”

The maligned bridge was built just 24 years ago but quickly fell into disrepair as structure elements began to fail. The city closed the bridge last year for safety reasons and is eager to get it reopened, calling it a vital link between the Northside neighborhood and downtown Missoula.

But over the past year, costs have continued to climb. In 2021, the City Council approved a capital project to renovate the bridge's ramps. The project was set to bid later that year when another inspection revealed cracks in the masonry towers, prompting the City Council to increase the project's budget by $171,000 last December.

Wednesday's action adds another $300,000 to the project's costs, which was budgeted earlier this year for roughly $2.7 million. Of that, around $855,000 was included in the city's Fiscal Year 2020 budget.

Selvage said the project aims to replace the damaged and failing structural masonry, the rusting deck pans, failing electrical and lighting circuits, and other repairs.

“Unfortunately, winter has arrived. Everything is taking a little longer,” he said. “We have to provide for heat and cover. We have to take extra time for curing. We're still on task and budget despite this change order.”

Despite the creeping costs, council members said it's still on budget.

“It doesn't affect the overall project budget, because there were a lot of contingencies built into this project,” said council member Heidi West, who represents the Northside neighborhood. “We knew it was going to be complicated and challenging, and construction costs were volatile.”