During an open house at the Doubletree Hotel on Tuesday, officials from the Montana Department of Transportation and Frontier West Construction answered questions about the construction project to begin Monday to repair the crumbling Madison Street Bridge.

Last spring, it was discovered that part of the sidewalk on the surface of the Madison Street Bridge had crumbled away and fallen on a trail below the bridge. District Construction Engineer with the MDT Missoula Division, Bob Vosen, said that fact and subsequent inspections moved the bridge repair project to the front of the line in the state.

"It was in April of May that actual chunks of the sidewalk fell through the deck down onto the underlying trail," Vosen said. "We had been tracking it for quite some time and it was on our long-range plan to rehab the bridge, but this just accelerated our time frame."

The urgency of the situation forced a 'design-build' plan to address the situation much more quickly than a regular bridge project.

"The design-build process allows us to move forward more quickly, because as we speak, all the design elements aren't complete but we can get started with securing the contract," he said. "It's just another tool in the tool box as far as a way to deliver a project and it shortens our time frame."

Frontier West Project Manager Mike Murphy said the initial work will begin this Monday, with replacement of the bridge decks in January.

"Work will begin Monday under the bridge on the university side to replace two of the 'bents' or piers, with one metal span, and that won't hamper traffic too much to start," Murphy said. "But, starting in January, we'll be replacing the bridge decks themselves. Basically what we're going to do is take the deck off. We'll do one side at a time, and traffic will be single-lane traffic in each direction over the bridge, and then we'll flip traffic on over to the new side and do the other side."

Murphy said the over $7 million  project is scheduled for completion in August of 2017, weather permitting.

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