FLORENCE – Commuters on the Eastside Highway just east of Florence will have a few more months before construction will slow their travels.

Construction started last month on the $11 million road reconstruction project that will include a wider bridge over the Bitterroot River, a bike path and a roundabout at a dangerous intersection.

The project encompasses the Eastside Highway from its intersection with U.S. Highway 93 to just a bit south of the large curve where traffic from the Eight Mile area now enters the highway.

Schellinger Construction has completed clearing the approach to a new bridge.

The company plans to place some riprap along the river’s edge before leaving the construction site for the winter, said Bill Maart, Montana Department of Transportation’s project manager.

Once Schellinger leaves, Maart said there shouldn’t be any traffic restrictions due to construction for several months.

The bridge contractor is expected to begin working sometime after Thanksgiving. Maart said that construction will continue through the winter months.

Schellinger Construction expects to return to the area sometime in late February or early March, depending on local conditions.

“It will take all of next year to get the major part of the project completed,” Maart said. “The bridge construction will continue through next fall. The chipping might not happen until 2015.”

The project includes a large roundabout at the current intersection of the Eastside Highway and roads from the Eight Mile area.

Maart said the roundabout will include a slip lane that will allow traffic traveling between Florence and Stevensville to avoid the traffic structure. Vehicles coming out of the Eight Mile area will also be able to access a merge lane that bypasses the roundabout.

The roundabout is designed to slow traffic at that intersection.

“I think it’s going to work well,” Maart said. “People living up Eight Mile will benefit from it.”

The project also includes a bike lane that will run through the entire length, including the bridge.

Maart said that will make travel for pedestrians and bicyclists a good deal safer.

Reporter Perry Backus can be reached at 363-3300 or at pbackus@ravallirepublic.com.

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