After close inspection by Montana Department of Transportation engineers, the load rating of the Higgins Avenue ‘Beartracks’ Bridge has been upgraded, doubling the weight capacity for vehicles crossing the bridge.

District One Administrator of the Montana Department of Transportation Bob Vosen delivered the news to KGVO on Wednesday morning.

“As of today, we've completed our analysis,” said Vosen. “Our bridge engineers have completed the analysis of the damage done to the girders and beams and were able to make a significant increase in the weight limit. It was 10 tons, but it's now 21 tons.”

Vosen said the reduced capacity caused delays and detours for heavy vehicles such as buses and trucks.

“This is a huge difference for us,” he said. “The key component is that now Mountain Line, for example, and the school buses will be able to utilize the bridge. So there'll be no longer delays or changes required in their service.”

Vosen explained what happened as workers attempted to dismantle the old bridge deck that led to the original delay.

“The steel girders and the steel stringers had some saw cuts, we weren't sure what the extent of those cuts were, or the in-the-field repairs that were made and what the impacts of those were,” he said. “So it was with an over-abundance of caution as evidenced by the fact that we were able to greatly increase the limit.”

Vosen said the bridge is now open to vehicles up to 21 tons.

“There is now a 21 ton limit,” he said. “RV’s  are now able to utilize the bridge. At this point I would ask that everybody continue to be aware that there are some heavier loads that are greater than 21 tons. So check your GVW, but most RVs and private vehicles obviously are going to be alright in utilizing the structure.”

The original completion date was to be in the spring of 2022, at a total cost of about $16.5 million


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