Maclay Bridge makes waves

Peggie Morrison says the future of the Maclay Bridge is still up for grabs. The president of the Target Range Homeowners Association acknowledges that officials believe a new bridge is imminent, but she's not willing to concede.

"[Missoula County Commissioner] Jean Curtiss' comments would make one believe this is a done deal ... but I don't think it is," Morrison says.

At a March 17 meeting with the commissioners, Morrison and other representatives from the homeowners association made yet another attempt to save the 79-year-old single-lane bridge. The group presented a self-financed survey of more than 240 residents to show that the majority doesn't approve of the county's plan.

"The key results of the survey show that 56 percent of respondents favor upgrading the existing Maclay Bridge" rather than replacing it, says Morrison. " ... We want the commissioners to know how the people of this area feel."

Maclay Bridge has been a white-hot point of contention in the rural community on Missoula's western flank. The bridge crosses the Bitterroot River at North Ave., but county and state officials are moving forward with plans to replace the old structure with a new two-lane bridge upstream of the current location. Officials are thrilled about a promised influx of federal funds to make the replacement happen, but some outspoken residents fear it will increase traffic and alter the character of their neighborhood.

Despite the continued opposition from residents, commissioners say they are not deviating from the plan they approved in April 2013.

"We took a look at the responses and people are of course entitled to their opinions," says County Commissioner Bill Carey. "But we are moving forward with the steps we have outlined previously for building a bridge in a new location."

Public Works Director Gregory Robertson, whose office is spearheading the bridge project, says the county must hire an engineering service and put the project through environmental review before construction can begin on the new bridge. He says the county has received roughly $500,000 from the Federal Highway Administration's Off System Bridge Program to finance the planning process and will receive more money as the project moves forward.

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