The Montana Department of Transportation plans meetings this week about the Higgins Avenue Bridge Rehabilitation Project after the bid from the contractor, Frontier West, came in over twice the original estimate.

Bob Vosen, Missoula District Administrator with the Montana Department of Transportation explained his reaction when the final estimate was revealed.

“In general terms, we were expecting something right around $17 million, but we got a bid in the neighborhood of $37 million,” said Vosen, who commutes to Missoula from his home in Kalispell. He said the estimate was a shock. “It truly was,” he said. “It was a lot greater than what we expected and that’s why we’re trying to dig into it to figure out what exactly caused the discrepancies. We’re trying to figure out what to do going forward. Obviously, we’re still committed to that bridge project, but time is money. Maybe we were too aggressive on our schedule or maybe we were too aggressive on how soon after the letting the contractor had to get started on the project, so there are lots of things we need to look into.”

Vosen said his department was apprised of the discrepancy only late last week.

“We found out about it Thursday, and I was on the road Thursday and Friday, so we’re just starting to dive into it today,” he said. “We’ve got some meetings scheduled in the next couple of days and we’ll reach out to other contractors to find out what we only had one contractor submit a bid, as well. MDT is meeting this week and we’ll be putting together a recommendation and the Transportation Commission meeting is on Friday.”

Vosen added that the Russell Street Bridge is in the final stages.

“They’re in the process of getting the deck formed up and to pour the deck as weather allows and we’re excited to get that critical part of the infrastructure for the community of Missoula,” he said. “The ideal would be to pour the deck when the weather is above freezing. We can pour when the weather is cold, but the warmer the weather the less time and energy we have to spend on heating the bridge while we’re pouring.”

The Higgins Bridge Rehabilitation Project was scheduled to begin in early 2020.