It's going to take a lot longer than expected to repair and re-open the pedestrian bridge on Missoula's north side.

And that means pedestrians and bicyclists will have to keep using a patchwork system of detours to get where they're going through the end of the year.

The Northside Pedestrian Bridge, which provides a critical link for crossing the Missoula rail yard had to be closed on September 30th after inspectors found what they described as "significant fractures" in the aging span, which was built in 1999.

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Seven years ago, the city discovered rusting in the deck "pan" and was planning to start repairs in 2021, when engineers noticed cracks in the masonry bridge supports. By last fall, engineers recommended closing the bridge entirely.

Now, Parks and Recreation Department leaders are saying the bridge won't be re-opened until "late 2023", allowing more time for design, and securing additional funding for the project. The city council has already approved spending $900,000 on the bridge replacement, with the total engineering bill to date at more than $400,000.

The city is promising to have more detailed cost estimates once the design and engineering work is finished. The city still hopes to put the project out to bid this spring. One of the challenges will be working with Montana Rail Link and Burlington Northern Santa Fe to allow access to the rail yard during construction.

Parks and Rec says re-opening the Northside Pedestrian Bridge remains "the city's #1 transportation priority."

READ MORE: Northside Bridge Closure Means Major Detours

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