Gathering listens to details on bridge project

 By Kay Braddock

       About 35 county residents gathered to address concerns regarding a proposed bridge rehabilitation project set to occur on the bridge crossing the Yellowstone River north of Terry. The project, which is expected to be completed by 2012, would likely require some road closure, according to Montana Department of Transportation district administrator Ray Mengel.

In a brief slide show presentation, MDOT officials explained how the slope on the south end of the bridge is continuing to move towards the river. Through a slope stability analysis, which included using three underground instruments, MDOT officials were able to determine movement is occurring 25 feet below ground. 
By extending the bridge another 60-feet and excavating some of the ground in the area beneath the construction, MDOT officials believe the problem will be alleviated.
Since taking over as district administrator for the area, Mengel said he’s been concerned about the condition of the bridge on the south end. 
“I’ve been trying to find money to fix this bridge,” Mengel said. He pointed out that only federal and state funds will be used on project. 
Although unwilling to provide a firm cost, MDOT bridge engineer Scott Walter said the project could cost up to $3 million.
“We don’t give out exact numbers,” Walter said, explaining the bid process has yet to begin. Walter noted that using rapid construction techniques would likely increase the cost of the project.
Prairie County north side resident Rich Franko questioned whether a retaining wall would prove more beneficial and less costly.
It’s really hard to fix a slope with a retaining wall, said MDOT official Jeff Jackson, explaining the problem is deep seeded and a retaining wall would not likely withstand the force created by the slope.
When asked about the project’s timeframe, Walter said typically a project like this could take up to three months, but construction options are being examined to see if that time could be dropped down to less than a month.
Addressing mail system deliveries, emergency traffic and farm and ranching travel, Mengel said he hoped residents could help provide information as to when the most optimal time the project could begin.
Comments on the project can be mailed to the MDT Glendive district office, PO Box 890, Glendive Mont. 59330. Comments can also be submitted by fax at (406) 345-8250. Comments must be received by Feb. 15, 2010.

Published Jan. 13, 2010

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