Missoula, MT (KGVO-AM News) - On Wednesday’s KGVO County Talk program, all three Missoula County Commissioners, along with Chief Engineer Shane Stack were in the studio to specifically address the problem with several bridges in the county.

One of the bridges that have already been closed is the Boy Scout Bridge in the Seeley Lake area. Stack said there have been severe complications in efforts to replace that bridge.

This is just the Start of Failing Bridges and other Infrastructure

“When you start talking about Boy Scout (Bridge) in Seeley Lake, we originally had an estimate on that before it was closed,” began Stack. “Our replacement cost is probably around $6 million. “The original plan was to use the existing bridge as a work bridge, and now we're going to have to construct a whole separate bridge as a work bridge because the existing structure will not hold the heavy equipment to build a replacement bridge. So that's jumped up to over $11 million. Now the cost to replace these structures is more than probably the county has resources to do.”

Then, Stack provided more details about what it will take to replace the Maclay Bridge, which was closed last week.

There are Simply Not Enough Resources to Repair or Replace all the Bridges

“Let's jump to Maclay (Bridge),” he said. “I think MDT’s (Montana Department of Transportation) current estimate on that is probably in the neighborhood of, ‘all in’, $28 to $29 million. The construction alone you're looking at $18 to $19 million and we have $1 million a year or less in revenue for the bridge program. We just don't have the resources to replace all of these structures.”

Stack and the County Commissioners emphasized the fact that the county, the state, and the federal government have not set aside enough money to repair or replace all the failing infrastructure in the area.

Stack said Governments must Find More Funds to Replace Infrastructure

“My frustration is this,” he said. “As a society, we have not focused enough effort and attention on our infrastructure, and we are seeing the results of that,” he said. “You've got Boy Scout Bridge being closed; you got Maclay Bridge being closed. We had Moccasin (Bridge) closed a few years ago and we were able to repair that but if we continue to go down the path we are today, you're going to see more and more bridges being closed.”

Stack provided a lengthy statement on the status of bridge repair and replacement, and added a plea for county residents to write letters of support to his office to help convince state and federal agencies to provide grant monies for the many bridges that need repair or replacement.

“We've had these funding mechanisms used before in Missoula and Missoula County. The limit is $25 million on RAISE (Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity), and we've got some state funds. In the last legislative session, Senate Bill 536 was passed and it dedicated $100 million to infrastructure across Montana,” he said. “$50 million goes to bridges that need to be replaced right away across the state for those counties like Prairie County that don't have the funding to replace those bridges. There is $20 million that will go into communities that have a population of 10,000 or less; there's $20 million to go into quick fixes. Glacier Creek in Condon is one of those bridges that are probably going to receive in the neighborhood of $110,000 to do a quick fix on that structure. Then there was $10 million set aside for a discretionary match. That was a competitive grant for the local governments. We submitted an application and out of that 10 million the most you could get was a million and it was first come first serve. We were able to get a million dollars out of that so that's part of our match for RAISE, so we've already got a million dollars in the pot and we're applying for $25 million more to replace those bridges. What we need is letters of support from anybody in those communities or in any community in the area that is interested, so if we would love a letter of support. You can reach out to me. My cell phone is (406) 830-0103.”

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