The news emerged this week that the walking surface on the newly remodeled Beartracks Bridge was too hot on a sunny day for people with bare feet and their dogs to walk on.

KGVO reached out to the Montana Department of Transportation for some answers and possible solutions to this unforeseen problem.

Matt Straub, Engineering Project Manager with the Montana Department of Transportation provided some background on the problem.

“We installed some lightweight, fiber reinforced polymer panels on the walkway on the west side of the bridge,” said Straub. “Unknown to us, the lightweight condition of those panels makes them reflect the heat from the sun and increases the surface temperature. The panels are filled with a foam used to hold the shape of the panels, but it has an insulating quality where it causes the sun's heat to be reflected right back up into the surface temperature of the panel.”

Straub said steps were taken immediately to let pedestrians know of the problem.

“Currently we put up some signs just to warn the public of the situation,” he said. “We're working on a couple of possible outcomes, which include either painting the top of the panels to try to get more reflective heat bounced off or we're looking into adding an overlay to give the panels a little more mass so that they have the ability to absorb and dissipate the heat.”

Straub said covering the panels to provide shade just isn’t in the budget, so other avenues are being investigated.

“That would be a very expensive proposition, and currently that is not a viable option,” he said. “To solve this problem, we need to collect a little more information on what our actual surface temperatures are and what the possibilities are. We're going to paint some areas white and see if we can get a significant temperature difference, if we can. We'll investigate that further to see if that's a solution possible solution to cover the whole deck.”

Straub also provided an update on the full bridge reconstruction project.

“We're continuing to progress to the north of that demolition,” he said. “Beginning next week, we'll be setting beams on the south end and we'll start putting in the concrete falsework to pour the deck and that'll chase the demo back north again. December 2nd is our substantial completion day.”

Straub said the $16.5 million reconstruction project is right on schedule, with a reminder to wear shoes on the walkway, and to be mindful of pets, as well.

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