A combination of supply chain issues and necessary repairs to girders on the structure will keep the Higgins Avenue ‘Beartrack’ Bridge project from being completed until perhaps well into November.

We spoke to Engineering Project Manager on the Higgins Avenue Bridge with the Montana Department of Transportation, Matt Straub on Friday for an update on the bridge reconstruction project.

“The week of (September) fifth we'll start working on our expansion joint closure pours, which are on the ends,” began Straub. “The week after that, so the week of the 12th, we'll be working on pouring curbs for the pedestrian-vehicle rails. So we're looking like we're going to be tied up with our Phase Two until the end of September.”

Straub said some of the work still to be done includes repairs from problems that occurred during Phase One of the project.

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“Starting at the beginning of October, we're going to have to go in and do some Phase One repairs,” he said. “We have some damaged girders that we need to go in and fix on the Phase One side. Those repairs are expected to take four to six weeks. We're hoping to get it done as soon as possible depending on weather and material availability, but the material availability has been the primary driver of our delays. We incurred some damage when we were deconstructing the bridge and have been fighting to get the materials to complete those repairs.”

Another sticking point in finishing the bridge project is the availability of the type of steel necessary for the job.

“All our steel in the project is of domestic origin, so one of the challenges is that we have to find the right steel from a domestic producer,” he said. “The steel on that bridge is considered ‘fracture critical’. That means it has some special testing requirements that go above and beyond just the normal stock steel that you can get off the shelf, and all those challenges have contributed to the delays.”

Straub said despite the delays and supply chain problems the budget for the project is still close to the original $16 to $17 million estimate.

Upon completion, the Higgins Avenue Bridge will eventually be renamed the Beartrack Bridge, according to Missoula County Commissioners Dave Strohmaier. Click here for details.

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