Sooner or later, Missoula’s Madison Street and Higgins Avenue bridges will undergo repairs, and if you have opinions on how to tackle those jobs now is the time to speak up.

The Montana Department of Transportation invites public discussion of future bridge work at an informational meeting this Wednesday. The event starts at 6 p.m. in the Missoula Senior Center and signals the beginning of community involvement in a planning study to identify bridge repair or even replacement options.

Ed Toavs, MDT’s district administrator for Missoula, said the brainstorming effort comes in response to low ratings on the bridges during recent inspections. Both of the river crossings scored below average on surface and structural components, Toavs said.

“They are safe for public use, I want to make that real clear.” Toavs said. “But it kind of got us thinking.”

The study will flesh out possible courses of action and evaluate the associated costs. MDT has contracted consulting firm DOWL HKM to conduct the roughly $160,000 study.

Laval Means, a planning manager with Missoula Development Services, said the city will work closely with MDT to make sure local needs are incorporated into any future projects.

Means said commonly voiced concerns include wider sidewalks, safer bike lanes, and greater pedestrian connectivity to areas like Caras Park. He stressed that the study is not meant to design anything, but rather to gather information on public desires.

“This is the time for you to point those out,” she said.

While the MDT will entertain short-term repair options, Toavs said he thinks revamping the 50-year-old structures likely represents a significant undertaking down the line – especially considering the recent Skagit River bridge collapse in Washington state.

“I hear that on the last bridge inspection that it was deemed safe,” Toaves said. “It’s really a large-scale issue. It’s not just things that people see on the surface.”

Toavs noted steady traffic flow and scouring by the Clark Fork River as a few of the phenomena which take their toll on Missoula’s bridges over time.

The planning study should wrap up by February 2014, Toavs said, at which point the MDT will look into affordable courses of action.

Brett Berntsen is a University of Montana journalism student and an intern at the Missoulian. He can be reached at (406) 523-5210 or be email at brett.berntsen@missoulian.com.

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(14) comments

MslaNative53
MslaNative53

If Missoula had listened to the forward thinking people who said we needed a 4 lane Russell street bridge when it was built, it would have been far cheaper then and would not have to be replaced now. The same was debated on Reserve Street. Pay now or pay more later.

I was a kid in Missoula when Higgins was built and after hours went up on it before it was opened. Now those are (dangerous) memories.

chezi
chezi

Are you kidding me? With the driving and pedestrian safety issues on Russell Street why are you paying a consulting firm "roughly $160,000" to study Higgins and Madison? Wider walkways? How about just a walkway for the people who go down Russell! I see so many struggle with the traffic which is out of control, there are no sidewalks or pathways for the people using Russell. There are more areas to Missoula than downtown, please prioritize the safety. Try waiting for the light on Broadway or 3rd Street while on the bridge because of the backup of traffic, etc.

cmoyles
cmoyles

FYI -The Russel Street bridge already through this process awhile ago and is slated for replacement.

http://missoulian.com/news/state-and-regional/missoula-s-russell-street-project-set-to-begin/article_be4d1d60-7342-11e2-a5b8-0019bb2963f4.html

cmoyles
cmoyles

FYI- the Russel street bridge already went through this process and i set to be replaced. Work has already started.

http://missoulian.com/news/state-and-regional/missoula-s-russell-street-project-set-to-begin/article_be4d1d60-7342-11e2-a5b8-0019bb2963f4.html

montanamuralist
montanamuralist

We have to fix the bridges, no matter who the mayor is or how many donuts he eats. You anti-government types get a little ridiculous talking about spending other peoples money like they are the only ones paying taxes. Michelle Bachmann mentality. I pay taxes too and I want the dad gum bridges fixed so they don't collapse in the river. Your brand of idealistic thinking is what prevented some major infrastructure bills from passing Congress but you lame anti government types will be the first ones screaming when the bridge collapses and will unabashedly point out how this is an example of how government fails us. If your only suggestion is this worn out anti government stuff just keep quiet please. it makes you look stupid and foolish. I do agree that this has been tedious however as Russell St bridge should have been replaced ages ago. That is the bridge I try to stay off of if I can. Orange Street is the newest and safest and that is my choice for crossing the river. I say spend my money and the rest of our citizens money to get this stuff repaired and don't sit around for 20 years doing it please.

MissoulaMom
MissoulaMom

I hope they will also look at the Russell St. Bridge. That bridge is frightening to go over whether by car, foot, or bike. It is also covered with cracks & potholes in the road and on the sidewalk.

Bob Giordano
Bob Giordano

Let's make these bridges work much better for the community. Wider walkways and bikeways are critically needed. The 4 travel lanes for motor vehicles are not needed- one lane in each direction would work well. This 4 to 2 lane conversion is supported by the City of Missoula, the Downtown Master Plan, local advocacy groups and citizens. Going to 2 travel lanes would allow instantly wider bike ways and walk ways, at an affordable cost. Another huge benefit is that speeds by cars would naturally lower to a more livable scale. We would need to keep the turn lanes at the adjacent intersections in order to keep motor flow going. -Bob Giordano, Missoula Institute for Sustainable Transportation

johnny Dollar
johnny Dollar

Right on Bob........you put up the monies and we will get it done! Like many other short sighted and fiscally challenged non-thinkers. Bob throws that word "Affordable out there as if we were talking about a box of donuts for mayor.

This town is full of people that love to spend other people's taxes. This part of Missoula is essentially stagnant. There is no growth and an aging population......not a place to spend millions so a fat guy can push a baby across the river.

For that matter, it would not matter if the walkway was 12ft wide, people would still walk abreast. Then we would have to have a path just for bicycles of course.......it never ends. Just walk your bike, pick up you kid and enjoy the scenery. If it does not suite you.......drive across.

sportscaster
sportscaster

If it takes as long to take care of these bridges as it has to complete the Russell Street Bridge and corridor none of us, including Bob Giordano, will live to see it! As for Bob's comment that "citizens" support narrowing these bridges to two lanes, I'd like to see the data to back that up. What Bob really means is citizens who are like-minded to him. I, and I'm sure many other "citizens," still get peeved every time we drive through the bell cow of narrowing projects, the West Broadway Diet. That in itself should be proof enough that narrower isn't always better. I can just see the traffic from the north trying to wend its way to the University of Montana campus over the narrowed Madison Street Bridge Bob and his fellow "citizens" espouse. It would look like a Griz football game day EVERY day. Now that would be progress, wouldn't it? And I don't even want to think about what that would mean for the Higgins Avenue Bridge. The thought of emergency vehicles trying to cross those bridges boggles the mind. I don't disagree that wider walkways and bikeways would be nice. But "critically needed?" That might be just a bit over the top. - Bill Schwanke

Bob Giordano
Bob Giordano

I did not see you at the public meeting last night? Almost every comment was about the critical need for improved pedestrian sidewalks and bike facilities on these two bridges. The Broadway 'road diet' has helped make the road safer, and it still flows. The prior Public Works director did an experiment and found the 4 to 3 lane conversion barely added a few seconds to driving that coridoor. A big deal: 5 pedestrians had died crossing that stretch with the excessive motor speeds, and the blind spots that 4 lanes create. Now the injury crashes have dropped dramatically. 4 lanes and 3 lanes move about the same amount of car traffic. 3-lanes is much better for cyclists and pedestrians, and saves a lot of money with less road maintenance. Finally, emergency vehicles tend to flow better on a 3-lane. -Bob Giordano, MIST

chezi
chezi

Sadly you have the idealist view...reality is we are the hub for a 150 mile radius..Many commute to work daily from as far as Darby and other areas and they do not ride their bikes in to shop, work or do business. (Many drive in huge gas guzzling SUV's) We need better roadways to get them in and out without sitting at lights and stop signs filling our air with more pollutants. I chuckle at the "improvements" at Malfunction..you now drive one block up and wait..As for people speeding, most are crawling with the traffic back-ups.

Bob Giordano
Bob Giordano

Modern, single lane roundabouts would really help the flow in Missoula! And help put an end to traffic crashes and injuries.

Indy
Indy

I agree with Mr. Giordano. Traffic across the bridge is too fast. We need a design that encourages slower speeds. MPD spends too much time enforcing here already, and it seems to have no effect. You don't have to watch very long at any time of day before you see someone gunning a vehicle across the bridge, pushing by the speed limit by 10-20 mph and more. It's too dangerous as is.

There should also be a safer division between bikers and traffic. The Orange Street bridge is a safety hazard with only a narrow bike lane between speeding traffic (another design that encourages speeding) on one side and a concrete barrier on the other side. Most don't bike across this bridge because it is too dangerous. Many people will chose the illegal route of biking across on the sidewalk instead---I don't blame them.

dave ajou
dave ajou

Obviously Bob, you penned the usual propaganda without realizing your own argument fails miserably. One lane in each direction does not work well. Russell Street bridge is a 2 lane bridge, so apparently the speed you identify as a "more livable scale" is either gridlock or the elimination of private automobiles altogether.

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