The investigation continues into the complications uncovered during the reconstruction of the Higgins Avenue Beartracks Bridge.

District One Administrator with the Montana Department of Transportation Bob Vosen explained what engineers found when they looked deeper into the structural problems with the nearly 60 year-old bridge.

“During the demolition of the bridge, some shallow cuts were made inadvertently in the tops of the steel girders of the old structure,” said Vosen. “Basically what happened was we had to cut the old concrete bridge deck into smaller pieces for removal, and with that older deck there were some inconsistencies in the depth of the concrete and in a few places they got into the tops of those beams.”

Vosen said the goal is for the bridge to carry its maximum capacity when the job is completed.

“When the field crews, the contractor and MDT field staff did make some repairs out there, our further investigation just indicated that we wanted to make sure that adequate repairs had been made that they would carry full capacity,” he said. “So the investigation into what that looks like is still ongoing.”

Vosen said Fickett Structural Solutions is assisting the MDT in determining how the bridge can best be restored.

“Yes, they're actually doing some non destructive testing for us where they're using ultrasound technology to check the integrity of the beams,” he said. “Because the tops of those beams are encased in concrete right now so we can have an ultrasound done from the bottom side of the beam up through the flange looking to see if there are any additional nicks or shallow cuts.”

Vosen said Fickett Structural Solutions is assisting his team on how to best proceed with repairs.

“Ficketts is out there working right now,” he said. “We're hoping to have numbers back just as soon as possible, where our bridge engineers can evaluate what we've got going on and figure out what are, and what the plan is going to be going forward, and what additional repairs, if any, are needed. At the end of the day, we're going to do everything we can to make sure we have a bridge that is fully capable of safely carrying full loads with no restrictions whatsoever.”

A timeframe to make these repairs has not yet been determined and material availability could play a role as to when the work will be completed. Once a repair plan is determined, MDT will notify the public of the schedule and cost of the repairs.

The bridge was renamed ‘Beartracks’ in honor of a Native American family that was forced to cross the Clark Fork River at that point over a hundred years ago on its way from their land to the Flathead Reservation.

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