Looks like it’ll be late April before the high-tech pedestrian bridge over South Reserve Street is open to traffic.
Work began last April on the $4.2 million span, only to encounter early problems relocating utilities. Still, hopes were high as late as September that the bridge would be operational by Halloween, but a manufacturer snafu set the timetable back again.
“Then winter came,” said Tod Gass, project coordinator with the Missoula Redevelopment Agency (MRA).
After sporadic work over a long, snowy winter, crews from Jackson Contractor Group resumed construction this week.
“What we’ve got going in the next couple of weeks is they’ll be finishing work on the deck and doing final work on electrical,” Gass said.
Then comes site work – grading around the bridge abutments and ramps, and preparing and paving the trail connections. Landscaping will be installed after that.
The bridge is an important connector meant to give safe passage over a busy Reserve Street/Highway 93 for walkers, joggers and bikers on the Missoula-to-Lolo Trail, which opened last summer. That trail extends to a network that runs through the city and to points east and west. It in turn connects to one that stretches all the way to Hamilton along Highway 93.
Rather than concrete, the bridge’s deck panels are made of a polymer reinforced with fiber material. Heating coils inside are designed to prevent ice and snow from building up. Gass said a deficiency in the fabric was discovered after the manufacturer started shipping the panels last fall. Decking was stopped while the panels were remanufactured.
Replacement panels arrived throughout the winter. Two remain to be shipped, with delivery expected by Monday, Gass said.
Snow and rain continue to dog the project this week, threatening more delays.
“They want to do joint work between the panels, but you have to have certain conditions to do that, what they call neutral weather conditions of 45 degrees or more to allow the material to set,” said Gass.
The bridge is funded by a 25-year bond requested by MRA. It’ll be paid back through tax increment financing spurred by property tax revenues from the South Crossing development that started in 2013 with construction of Cabela’s and Kohl’s.
A ribbon-cutting event will be announced in April.