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New bridge open to traffic

The Meridian Bridge Replacement Project is complete.

The project, which saw full closure of the bridge on April 17, was completed and opened for traffic on October 19.

The project was a joint effort between Gallatin County, Jefferson County, and Broadwater County and received funding with a grant from the Montana Coal Endowment Program (MCEP). The bridge on Meridian Cemetery Road near Willow Creek spans the county line between Jefferson and Gallatin Counties.

Jefferson County Commission Chair Cory Kirsch said it is great news to see the project completed.

According to Kirsch, the first MCEP application meeting about the bridge was in 2018.

"And now we are here in October of 2023, seeing it complete. It was quite a process. Gallatin County did a fantastic job sponsoring and administering the project. It was a great partnership between Gallatin, Broadwater, and Jefferson Counties, with Gallatin leading the charge," said Kirsch. "Now, local emergency services will have the safest and fastest possible route from Willow Creek to all the residences on the other side of the river. Our local producers will also have a much more direct and efficient route across the river."

The funding for the new bridge was a collaboration between Gallatin County ($460,051), Jefferson County ($345,038), and Broadwater County ($115,013), as well as funding from the Treasure State Endowment Program. In 2021, the project was awarded a $750,000 grant from MCEP.

The 267-foot-long by 18-foot-wide former bridge served around 103 vehicles per day.

In the application for the MCEP grant, deficiencies listed for the bridge were:

* The posted weight limit on the bridge is nine tons.

* The bridge is too narrow for two-way traffic.

* The steel truss has moderate corrosion throughout, with areas of pack rust.

* Intermediate pier columns are split at the top and leaning to the south.

* North abutment has exposed rebar on wing walls and undermining of abutment wall.

* The south abutment has areas of significant concrete spalling.

* Moveable bearing on the southeast corner of the bridge has no room for expansion.

* Timber deck has minor checking and extensive wear on the north half.

* No approach rail is present.

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