Construction on last county bridge replacement project to begin in February
The Ross Fork Creek Bridge off Hawk Coulee Road will be replaced over the winter and into early spring, ideally before high-water hits the Ross Fork drainage, according to Project Engineer Kathy Thompson with Stahly Engineering, who is overseeing the county project.
The historic Ross Fork Creek Bridge is located southwest of Eddies Corner. When travelling southbound on Highway 191 after turning at Eddies toward Judith Gap, one takes the first right onto Hawk Coulee/Mick’s Dr. The bridge is a couple miles west on the gravel county road.
The Ross Fork Creek Bridge is the last bridge slated for replacement in Judith Basin County, following the major bridge replacements that began primarily after the 2011 floods.
About the bridge
The Ross Fork Creek Bridge is a steel truss constructed in 1910, according to Project Engineer Thompson. While interesting in its design, the one-lane bridge is not practical, especially in the agriculture-based region. For example, if a person were combining west of the bridge, even if the grain elevators of Moore were in eyeshot, he or she would still need to take the harvest miles out of the way and around the bridge, which cannot withstand the weigh limit of most grain trucks. Further, it is narrow.
The new bridge, on the other hand, will be two-lanes wide, 28-feet wide by 90-feet long, and able to accommodate grain trucks as well as combines, which can raise their headers above the guardrails.
To help with funding the project, Judith Basin County Commissioners Jim Moore and Don Hajenga testified before the Montana Legislature in 2019 to request funding from the state’s Treasure State Endowment Program. This funding program, commonly referred to as TSEP, is a grant program available through the Montana Department of Commerce for infrastructure projects like drinking water and wastewater systems, as well as bridges. State Legislators and the Governor determine what projects receive funding after the Department of Commerce ranks the grant applications.
The Ross Fork Bridge replacement project is estimated at $450K to $500K. Judith Basin was awarded nearly $250K from the TSEP grant program, and will match the remaining costs through in-kind work, meaning the county can match funds by helping with some of the work and materials. The county also has budgeted cash for the project.
Bid and construction
An invitation to bid took place from mid-December until mid-week of Jan. 6, 2021, when bids were opened. Commissioners will select the company to construct the bridge on Wednesday, Jan. 14, after this article prints.
Construction is expected to begin in February 2021, with company selected having 90 days to complete the project. There will be some flexibility for poor weather, said Project Engineer Thompson.
The scope of the project also includes disposal of the existing bridge, substructure construction, superstructure construction, bridge railings, placement of bridge end backfill, and hauling and placing riprap, according to the invitation to bid.
“The superstructure of the new bridge will consist of precast, pre-stressed bulb-tee beams and W740 metal guardrail. Beams will be founded on a new stub abutment foundation. Judith Basin County will be constructing the roadway approaches after construction of the new bridge is complete,” as written in the invitation to bid.
During construction, travelers will need to take a sixmile detour to get across Ross Fork Creek; however, the new bridge is expected to be in place in the spring and summer, in time for planting and harvest activities considering agriculture was a key reason for its replacement.