Construction on the MT-81 Bridges project is anticipated to begin the week of April 6.
An open house was originally scheduled for March 24 and has been canceled. This is due to concerns regarding COVID-19 and recommendations from the CDC regarding meetings of 50 people or more.
If you have questions regarding construction occurring this year, please call the project hotline at 406-207-4484.
The bridges on MT-81, otherwise known as Denton Highway, are aging and in need of repair. The bridge over the Judith River was built in 1948; the bridge over Warm Spring Creek dates back to 1935. These bridges are more than 70 years old, attempting to still accommodate the same large weights and vehicles. Though these bridges are currently safe to drive on, it is critical to fix problems before they become too compromised.
Montana Department of Transportation (MDT) is launching the MT-81 Bridges project to replace three aging bridges between Lewistown and Denton. These bridges are located at the Judith River, Warm Spring Creek, and an irrigation canal roughly a mile southeast of Meadow Creek Road. The irrigation canal will be converted from a bridge to a box culvert, a tunnel-like structure that allows water to flow underneath a roadway.
This project will provide safer roadways for residents, agricultural operations, and commercial trucks traveling through the area. For the average person, this project will have a minimal effect – delays for passenger cars will be brief and closures will always be limited to one-lane, making travel through the bridges' construction areas relatively easy. MDT will coordinate with farmers and trucks hauling wide loads to make every reasonable effort to safely route these heavier and wider vehicles through the project area.
Construction is anticipated to kick-off in early April as the weather starts to warm. Weather permitting, the project will wrap up prior to the end of 2020. Construction schedules for each structure are expected to be staggered:
- Irrigation canal near Meadow Creek Road: April – May 2020
- Warm Spring Creek Bridge: May – August 2020
- Judith River Bridge: May – October 2020
Those who drive this stretch of highway are encouraged to sign up for project updates to stay up to date on construction. The following resources are available:
- Email updates: Contact us to subscribe.
- Project hotline: 406-207-4484, Monday - Friday, 8 a.m. - 5 p.m.
While these bridges are currently safe to drive on, they cannot endure additional years of use and need to be reconstructed. Due to the need for a quick solution, the Montana Department of Transportation has nominated this project for “design-build construction,” meaning that project plans will be created, approved, and constructed in an expedited process.
Many projects within Montana Department of Transportation must wait years for funding and design is typically completed while funding is secured. With design-build, Montana Department of Transportation is able to prioritize projects with exceptional needs and identify funding for both design and construction simultaneously. This considerably speeds up the traditional development timeline. With limited funds and many needs across the state, the Montana Department of Transportation must carefully choose projects that qualify for this process.