Montana Department of Transportation

Higgins Avenue Bridge Rehabilitation FAQs

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Higgins Avenue Bridge Rehabilitation

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the purpose of this project?

The purpose of the Higgins Avenue Bridge Rehabilitation Project is to repair and rehabilitate the aging bridge to extend the life of the structure in a cost-effective manner and to improve the multimodal transportation facilities on the bridge by widening the bridge deck to provide wider bicycle and pedestrian facilities on both sides of the bridge.

The proposed project does not involve a full replacement of the bridge, but rather replacing the concrete deck, repairing and replacing other structural elements, and modifying the structure to accommodate the wider non-motorized facilities.

The current phase of this project involves developing final designs and environmental documentation to secure final permits and approvals prior to construction.

Who is developing this project?

The Montana Department of Transportation (MDT) is developing this project in partnership with the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and in cooperation with the City of Missoula. MDT has retained HDR as the consulting engineers for the design of the bridge rehabilitation.

Who is paying for this project?

The cost associated with the structural rehabilitation of the bridge is proposed to be funded in partnership between MDT and the City of Missoula. The majority of the funding will be provided by the Surface Transportation Program Bridge (STP-Bridge), which is a federal funding category that may be used to preserve or improve conditions and performance on non-National Highway System federal-aid routes. The federal share for STP projects is 86.58 percent, and the state is responsible for the remaining 13.42 percent, which is typically funded through the Highway State Special Revenue (HSSR) account.

In support of the project, and in an effort to further improve facilities for all modes and users on this vital corridor, the City of Missoula will contribute approximately $1.6M to fund a portion of the costs, which will generally be used to improve the non-motorized facilities, decorative lighting and railings, and other aesthetic features.

The total cost for construction, including widening the bridge for non-motorized uses, is estimated at $11.6M. The cost estimate is based on limited information at this time. It will be updated as the design progresses.

How will non-motorized transportation be improved on the bridge?

Previous planning studies and input from the public have identified the need to improve non-motorized facilities on Higgins Avenue Bridge by widening the sidewalks and bicycle lanes. The current sidewalks on both sides of the existing bridge are approximately 5 feet wide and the railing configurations reduce the width to approximately 4 feet. The current sidewalk is not wide enough to accommodate the passage of two wheelchairs or baby carriages. Dedicated 4-foot-wide bicycle lanes exist adjacent to the vehicular travel lanes. Currently bicycles are prohibited from crossing the bridge on the sidewalks and are required to use the bike lanes.

Although the design is not completed, the final bridge rehabilitation will involve widening the non-motorized facilities in some capacity to meet current design standards. The preferred rehabilitation option developed in partnership by the City, MDT, and stakeholders includes widening the bridge deck to accommodate a shared bicycle-pedestrian space of 12 feet on the east side and 13 feet on the west side. The non-motorized space would be physically separated from vehicle traffic by a barrier. While both bicyclists and pedestrians will occupy the new non-motorized space, it is possible that striping, bollards, and/or other visual or physical elements will be used to distinguish pedestrian and bicycle spaces.

The preferred cross-section was developed by the project partners with the intention of improving facilities for all modes and users, including safety and function, while minimizing impact to the areas surrounding the bridge and river, and maximizing available funding from MDT Bridge funds and City of Missoula funds.

Will Higgins Avenue be reduced to three lanes?

Not as a result of this project. The project limits include the Higgins Avenue Bridge and the immediate roadway approaches to the bridge. The bridge will be designed to accommodate four travel lanes, two in each direction. The lane configuration of Higgins Avenue beyond the bridge and approaches will not be evaluated as part of this project. The new bridge configuration will support a change to 3-lanes if Higgins Avenue is reconfigured in the future.

When will construction take place and for how long?

Construction is anticipated to begin in earnest in early 2020 and could vary depending on the timing of available funding. Duration of construction has not been finalized and could take between one and two construction seasons to complete. One side of Higgins Avenue will be closed to traffic while construction occurs on the opposite side. The intent is to maintain two lanes of traffic (one in each direction) during most construction activities. MDT, the City, and the design team are developing the construction timeline and sequencing to minimize impacts to traffic, the downtown area, and events in Caras Park to the extent practical. Current plans are to begin construction sometime after January 2020 and allow construction to continue through completion.

How can the public stay informed on this project?

The public is encouraged to participate in the project. There will be two (2) separate public informational meetings held that will align with major project milestones; the first was held on April 4, 2018, the second will be held January 29, 2019. Project information will be posted on this website as it becomes available.

Comments can be submitted electronically or by emailing the project contacts linked on the right-hand side of the screen.

To submit a comment, visit MDT’s Online Comment Form.

Please note that your comments are for the Higgins Ave BR Rehab-Missoula project, UPN 8807000.