By Kay Braddock
The Montana Department of Transportation has secured $2 million from federal bridge replacement funds that will be used to replace a stretch of secondary highway 253 leading to the Yellowstone River bridge north of Terry.
The project, tentatively scheduled for 2012, could begin as early as 2011. It will include adding 60 feet to the south end of the existing bridge.
According to MDOT District Administrator Ray Mengel, the stretch of road to be replaced sits on unstable manmade ground, which is causing the road to slope north towards the river.
“It’s been a continual maintenance problem for us for a long time,” Mengel said. He pointed to an area next to the highway the department has backfilled and added steel to in order to prevent more sloping.
“The long term is that we’re concerned that someday the whole thing will slide out of there and you’re going to have this big opening,” Mengel said. “We’re trying to be proactive and fix this before that ever takes place.”
The project will include excavating the ground, then adding a 60-foot span of prefabricated material to the bridge, which will then extend to natural ground.
It will also require some road closure. Although it’s expected to take two to three months to complete, Mengel says the highway will not be closed during the entire construction, but during periods of that time.
Alternate routes include traveling through Jordan or traveling through Circle.
MDOT will be holding public meetings in Terry this winter, Mengel said, to address concerns for those who travel the highway. Information gathered from those meetings can be added to the specifications of the project, which may help determine the optimal times to close the highway.
In the meantime, sensors placed in the ground by MDOT are tracking ground movement.
“We’re monitoring it all the time and ensuring it’s in safe condition for the traveling public,” Mengel said.
Published Oct. 28, 2009