By Tim Leeds
The first bridge work is under way in Beaver Creek Park, with work on the rest of Montana Highway 234 through the park beginning as early as the fall.
A crew from a Great Falls construction company is building a temporary bridge for traffic while it removes the bridge, about 11 miles south of Havre, and builds a new bridge. The temporary bridge is about 30 feet west of the original bridge.
Montana Department of Transportation employees discovered last July that the bridge was unsafe when they were investigating a report of a pothole on the bridge.
Several timbers were rotten and broken, Harvey Hansen of Tamietti Construction said Wednesday.
The timbers were shored up and reinforced last fall. The pavement on the bridge was not replaced, and the driving surface was made of 6-by-17-inch planks. The bridge has had a reduced speed limit of 25 mph since it was repaired.
The reconstruction of the highway is expected to begin by Sept. 1.
Doug Gregory, MDT's Great Falls District construction engineer, said the project will go out for bids in July. The contract has a 180-working-day completion time, excluding mid-November to mid-April.
"There are three more bridges that get rebuilt in the project. That will surely start (this fall,)" he said.
It's likely that people will be driving on gravel for at least part of the road during the winter, Gregory added.
The construction will take place from the start of Beaver Creek Park, about eight miles south of Havre, to its intersection with Route 448, about 11 miles south of the starting point.
Building the temporary bridge will take about one week, Hansen said. Once it is done, Baltrusch Construction of Havre will build and pave a diversion road to it.
The work crew will probably start tearing out the original bridge about Aug. 1, Hansen said.
The total contract time to build the new bridge is 90 days, he said, and the new bridge should be completed by the end of October.