Traffic on I-90 just west of the Missoula Valley will start running a little slower this week, as contractors for the Montana Department of Transportation begin rehabilitation of another one of the long bridge sections over the Clark Fork River.

MDT announced this morning that Frontier West is starting work this week on the eastbound section of the bridge that carries freeway traffic over the river 5 miles east of Alberton.

The bridge dates back to 1979 and has gone through several minor rehab projects in the intervening decades. But this will be the first time the span has had such extensive work.

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MDT says contractors will be doing a complete replacement of the bridge deck, installing a new barrier and guardrail, and making some minor repairs to the bridge substructure. Some of the bridges will also make the bridge smoother to drive on, such as replacing the expansion joints, grooving the bridge surface, and fixing the approaches to the bridge.

MDT says the bridge remains safe to drive on and will continue to carry traffic on the westbound lanes. But engineers say doing the complete re-hab is much more cost-effective than replacing the entire bridge, and will extend the life of the bridge by several more decades.

MDT map
MDT map

The work will use a "cross-over" through the construction zone, and with the approach to the "Nine Mile" hill, that will likely mean some slowing of traffic as trucks and RVs gain momentum beyond the construction area, a couple of miles long.

 “For the safety of the traveling public and the contractor, the eastbound bridge will be closed, and traffic will be crossed over to the westbound lane. Both east and westbound traffic will travel on the westbound side of the interstate for approximately 2 miles.” -John Benda, MDT Engineering Project Manager.

There will also be length and width restrictions throughout the construction zone. However, anyone floating in the river will be allowed to pass underneath. Signs may direct boaters to use one side of the river at times.

The work is expected to last all summer and into the fall.

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