BONNER — The gritty steel and concrete of interstate bridge reconstruction over the Blackfoot River has an aesthetic side to it.
Those attending an open house at Bonner School from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. Monday can vote on the artwork that will adorn the tops of new I-90 bridge piers once the project is complete next year.
“They did a workshop in June where they kind of developed the designs, and they’re really cool,” said Donny Pfeifer, construction operations engineer for the Montana Department of Transportation. “We’re going to have kind of a democratic voting process of them.”
Participants will have three logos to choose from.
“They all have symbolism that represents the importance of the area in terms of the fishing, the river and the wildlife, is kind of how I would describe it,” Pfeifer said.
Since the project started in March, the eastbound bridge on I-90 has been dismantled and construction of four piers on each side of the Blackfoot River channel is underway.
Next year the process will be repeated on the westbound span. Then the two giant piers in the middle of the river channel will be removed to make it safer to navigate the Blackfoot in boats and tubes. A paved trail on the west bank from the new confluence section of Milltown State Park upstream to the Black Bridge section will pass under five bridges. Enhanced lighting and seating will be part of the trail design.
The entire $15 million project has a November 2019 completion target.
Participants in the June logo design workshop represented the Bonner-Milltown communities and surrounding neighborhoods, as well as the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes. The three logos will be unveiled for the first time at Monday’s open house. An MDT and Morrison Maierle rendering of the bridge and logos shows a large trout on each, but none of the three options look like that, said Sarah Knobel, who's handling public outreach for the Bonner Bridges project for Big Sky Public Relations.
Knobel said MDT encourages residents to attend the open house not only to vote on a logo but to meet the construction team and ask questions.
Frontier West and Morrison-Maierle, the same team that replaced the Madison Street Bridge in Missoula last year, won the construction bid for this one.
“In particular, the angler and floating communities are invited to join to understand the purpose of river closures under the Bonner Bridges,” Knobel said in a media release this week.
Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks is working with MDT during the project and closed the river in May for a couple of weeks. A similar closure is slated for late summer and early fall.
“It’s always a tough decision to close river access, especially in the height of the summer season,” Bob Vosen, MDT’s Missoula District construction engineer, said in the press release.
“We aren’t blind to the impact that a closure has on residents, tourists and outfitting and guiding businesses. However, safety is the utmost priority here, and we just can’t risk someone being injured in the river during construction," said Vosen. "Once this project is wrapped up and we’re out of here, the area will actually be a lot safer for everyone to use.”
For more information call the project hotline at 406-207-4484. Sign up for updates on the project by emailing email@example.com. Texting updates are available by texting “BONNER” to 41411.