More details have been released about why construction managers have decided to impose a weight restriction on Beartracks Bridge in downtown Missoula.
The Montana Department of Transportation implemented a 10-ton weight limit this week as a precautionary measure after inspectors noticed problems on the bridge, which crosses the Clark Fork River on Higgins Avenue. Construction is underway to widen the bridge deck.
Degradation of some of the structural supports was noted during the east half of the bridge's demolition phase, said Bob Vosen, the Missoula district administrator with the Montana Department of Transportation.
Additional inspections of the bridge's west side found that some gusset plates — steel plates that tie bracing and/or beams to girders — need to be replaced, he said. The newly imposed weight restriction has been established to prevent further degradation of these plates.
“This is an old structure,” Vosen said. “When you rehabilitate an existing structure, there are bound to be some unique challenges. We have every confidence that this bridge is safe for the traveling public. This temporary weight restriction will help in preventing any further degradation or the need for additional repairs.”
Sletten Construction is the contractor in charge of the project.
“Proceeding with an abundance of caution is always the prudent decision,” said Tony Ewalt, senior vice president of Sletten Construction. “Sletten Construction will continue to work closely with MDT and its engineers to ensure the best results for this rehabilitation project and the continued safety of the traveling public.”
The posted weight limit of 10 tons is much lighter than the public Mountain Line buses in Missoula, which are generally 16 tons. Those buses will be rerouted for the time being. Many larger RVs, including Class A motorhomes, could exceed the weight limit.
Vosen said people can find the gross vehicle weight posted in the door jamb or in the owners manual. Trailers usually have the weight posted on a plaque near the tongue.
Earlier this summer, the bridge had a problem with excessive heat being absorbed by the new pedestrian path material.
The public can sign up for updates and ask any questions via the project hotline at 406-207-4484.
"Sletten Construction appreciates the patience of residents dealing with the inconveniences that occur with this type of construction,” Ewalt said. “We are delivering a quality project and are confident the result will be a benefit to Missoula for many years to come.”