In December, 2019 the Montana Department of Transportation went back to the drawing board after the initial estimate for reconstructing the Higgins Avenue Bridge came in at $37 million, more than twice the original estimate.

Today, Missoula Division manager Bob Vosen said the new numbers are in, the contract has been awarded and work is set to begin in early October.

“Sletten Construction, a local Montana contractor, was our successful low bidder and their notice to proceed date is October 5th, so we're looking at two weeks from yesterday,” said Vosen. “The original engineer's estimate was $16.7 million and Sletten’s low bid came in the neighborhood of $16.5 million. If you remember, the initial time we went out our low bid came in at $37 million, so while it was unfortunate we had the delay, we got a tremendous amount of taxpayer savings by going through the extra steps.”

Vosen described the first steps of the project.

“The reconstruction part of the Higgins bridge deck will begin with the work taking place on the southbound or the west side of the bridge, and traffic will be utilizing the two north bound lanes, with one lane in either direction. So there'll be one lane north and one lane southbound, and for those pedestrians that are using the sidewalks, they also will be over on the far east edge of the project, but there will only be one sidewalk available each of the phases.”

Vosen said the work will continue, weather permitting, through the winter.

“We hope to complete the first phase the West half of the bridge early in the spring,” he said. “I believe we're looking at a May time frame, and then we'll be moving over and switching traffic over onto the new bridge. The good news once we make that switch is that the pedestrian traffic and the shared use paths and sidewalk on the west side of the bridge. The new one will be much wider; instead of the current four feet we have now, it'll be about 13 feet.”

Vosen said the reconstruction work will be financed by a combination of federal and state gas tax monies.

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