Maclay Bridge’s distant future still hangs in limbo, but the Montana Department of Transportation wants to take some intermediate steps to make it safer.
Based on a crash trend on the west end of the single-lane Missoula bridge, the department is proposing to install a shielded streetlight and a large arrow sign at the intersection of River Pines Road, Riverside Drive and North Avenue.
Construction is tentatively scheduled for the fall of 2013, depending on completion of project development activities and available funding. No new right-of-way or utility relocations will be needed and no flashing lights are planned, according to Ed Toavs, MDT’s Missoula District administrator.
Toavs said the project has little to do with a much broader study area examining the feasibility of keeping Maclay Bridge open or building a larger, modern bridge upstream on the Bitterroot River. MDT, Missoula County and consultant Robert Peccia and Associates of Helena plan to have the study completed by February of next year.
The issue has generated plenty of heated discussion and prompted the formation of a neighborhood group, the Maclay Bridge Alliance.
“When you bring up the words ‘Maclay Bridge’ it piques a lot of folks’ interest, so we want to be real clear that this is just an independent project and it’s not intended to do anything pre-determinational that would affect the study area,” Toavs said.
“The study area is a much bigger area of concern that we’re still taking public comment on. This is just an isolated area that happens to be within the study area.”
Montana Highway Patrol records show that for the 11-year period from Jan. 1, 2000, through Dec. 31, 2010, 26 crashes occurred at Maclay Bridge and at the intersection of Riverside Drive, which meets River Pines Road/North Avenue at a sharp turn just west of the bridge.
Sixteen of the accidents were considered to be addressable with the installation of a streetlight and arrow board, Toavs said. Fifteen people were injured in those 16 crashes.
Toavs estimated the proposed “luminaire pole” and arrow sign will cost $5,000.
The department is seeking public comment on the proposal. For more information, call Toavs at (406) 523-5802 or Patricia Burke, MDT’s project design engineer, at (406) 444-9420. The hearing impaired can call the TTY number of (406) 444-7696 or 1-800-335-7592, or the Montana Relay at 7-1-1.
Written comments may be submitted to MDT’s Missoula office at P.O. Box 7039, Missoula, MT, 59807-7039, or online at www.mdt.mt.gov/mdt/comment_form.shtml. Note that comments are for project UPN 7845000. The project’s name is “SF119 – River Pine – W Maclay Brdg.”
Reporter Kim Briggeman can be reached at 523-5266 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.