After being closed since inspectors discovered major safety problems last winter, Missoula's Maclay Bridge is re-opening today.

The bridge, which spans the Bitterroot River, had been closed since the end of January when engineers discovered the bridge had deteriorated to the point that it was no longer safe for traffic.

That led to an immediate closure to cars and trucks, plus bikes and pedestrian travel, with state and county agencies worried about a possible collapse. Repairs began in March after the county developed a plan to re-enforce the span.

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Restoration of a key link

The closure has inconvenienced hundreds of people, who depend on the bridge every day to cross the Bitterroot River into the west side of Missoula.

Originally, the county hoped to have the bridge re-opened last month, but that was delayed after more problems were discovered that required additional repairs, costing $75,000.

Bridge re-opens

Missoula County Public Works said the latest repairs were inspected and approved by the engineering firm HDR, and the bridge was set to re-open to all traffic by Tuesday afternoon.

As before the closure, the weight limit on the bridge will remain at 11 tons, and the Montana Department of Transportation will be checking that limit later this month.

Not a permanent solution

Although the bridge can be used again for traffic, engineers say the repairs aren't a "long-term fix", and plans to replace the span with a new "South Avenue Bridge". That won't happen until 2026 at the earliest.

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Gallery Credit: Dennis Bragg

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