The $30 million Russell Street Bridge project is entering a new phase now that spring has arrived and the snow is melting away.

Missoula District Administrator for the Montana Department of Transportation, Ed Toavs said construction has entered an important new phase.

“This last week they finished the final deck pours for what we call Phase One, or the east half of the new Russell Street Bridge,” said Toavs. “That means we’re done with the concrete placement, so we’re in what we call the cure period which is roughly about 28 days while the concrete cures under required conditions. When there is some strength in the concrete they will be looking at some rail work.”

Toavs said this is a big step in the project.

“That’s a big deal, it’s a big milestone for the project,” he said. “That also is going to lead to some road work from Broadway south, so that the contractor can prepare to switch traffic over, probably in May, because we’re going to swap traffic. What that means is that we’re going to take traffic off the existing bridge and put it on two-way two lane on this new east half, and that obviously is going to require some road work from Broadway to the bridge and some more preparation from the bridge southward to where folks can see the pavement. So, that’s a pretty big milestone.”

Toavs said this project stands out as one of the most complex he’s ever seen.

“You literally can’t walk five or ten feet without running into a conflict,” he said. “You have a utility line or a storm drain line, or something you have to contend with while you’re building it. We’ve even gotten some compliments on the flow of construction which has gone very well to date, even compared to before we started construction. We’ve been trying to coordinate with the neighborhood councils, the schools, the businesses, and the city of Missoula. I don’t recall in my career ever having been involved in a project that was this complex.”

Toavs said the Russell Street Bridge project is well known across the state.

“You’ve got some of those projects of high notoriety, like the Kalispell Bypass, the Billings Bypass, Shilo Road, Two Medicine Bridge in East Glacier, some of those legacy projects, and Russell Street is one of them.”

Toavs provides a very tentative timeline for the Russell Street Bridge project to be finally completed.

“It’s an expensive project, about $29 to $30 million dollars,” he said. “Everything is weather dependent. When we get into this fall and we begin forming and pouring the west half of the phase two part of the bridge, a lot of that is weather dependent. We’re trying to get the deck poured before the end of this year, and so sometime in mid winter the schedule that we’re looking at is to try and get traffic on the five-lane bridge sometime before the end of 2020 or the beginning of 2021. That’s our projection as of right now.”