Missoula, MT (KGVO-AM News) - With bridges failing, but repair and replacement money in the pipeline, U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg is likely to dive deep into discussions about problems, and solutions, on his first-ever visit to Montana this week.

It's a visit that actually had to be postponed in April after a ship rammed into a major span in Brooklyn, adding to the challenges faced by the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Buttigieg is expected to hear about bridges during his two-day Montana trip, but bridges that are failing because of age, not out-of-control ships.

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A focus on investment

Buttigieg's main purpose of the trip to Western Montana today and Tuesday is to highlight the major investments that have been made possible because of the bi-partisan "Investing in America" bill approved by Congress a couple of summers ago.

The Biden Administration has been moving quickly down the list of long-delayed infrastructure projects.

Air travel first

Monday afternoon, Buttigieg was slated to tour the Missoula Montana Airport, where millions of dollars have been spent to build a new terminal. The second phase of that project should be completed next year.

RELATED: Missoula Sees New Non-Stop Service from New Terminal

Later in the day, Buttigieg will visit with students in the apprentice program at the University of Montana's Industrial Tech Program at Missoula College.

Focus on Western Montana's most important highway

Tuesday, Buttigieg is scheduled to travel to the Flathead Reservation for a meeting with the leaders from the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes to hear about the tribe's infrastructure priorities.

That includes the long-awaited rebuild of Highway 93 through the Mission Valley. Last year, the tribe and Montana DOT announced that funding had been allocated to rebuild on the most dangerous sections of the busy highway, north of St. Ignatius around Nine Pipes and Post Creek Hill.

That's a complicated, and expensive project, largely because of the measures that will be needed to protect the critical wetlands and wildlife habitat.

During the discussions, it's expected local leaders will talk about the expense of replacing bridges, a point that has been an increasing concern with several bridge emergencies this year.

Buttigieg is also scheduled to tape an appearance on Talkback with Peter Christian for playback later in the week.

Missoula's Beartracks Bridge Rebuild

A look back at one of Missoula's biggest construction projects

Gallery Credit: Dennis Bragg

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