Work to start this week on West Broadway Island trails, bridges

The plan is for the contractor, Frontier West, to repair the existing utility bridge that spans the canal, build another pedestrian bridge to the island from city property near Scott Street, and create a trail on the island that connects the two. (Laura Lundquist/Missoula Current)

Work is slated to start this week on Missoula’s West Broadway Island project, but mid-February weather is proving to be a bit of a challenge.

The clank of construction wafted upstream from the Russell Street bridge project on Monday, but the chain-link gate to the West Broadway Island’s decaying utility bridge was closed. The only thing moving along the Clark Fork River behind the Imagine Nation Brewing Company was the occasional ice chunk floating through the almost-choked channel while temperatures hovered in the mid-teens.

Missoula Redevelopment Agency assistant director Chris Behan said crews might start moving equipment into place on Tuesday. Once they begin work, they’ll probably start repairing that utility bridge at the south end of Burton Street, so they can use it to move equipment onto the island. For that reason, the end of Burton Street will be closed.

But with temperatures forecast to stay below freezing for at least the next week, it may be a slow start.

“With this hard ground, it’s kind of hard to do much digging or concrete work. But we’ve given (the construction company) a pretty long window for construction just to accommodate exactly this,” Behan said.

The plan is for the contractor, Frontier West, to repair the existing utility bridge that spans the canal, build another pedestrian bridge to the island from city property near Scott Street, and create a trail on the island that connects the two.

The trail will be made of natural material because it’s in the floodplain. That part of the island doesn’t flood, Behan said, but the trail could still be damaged, it’s easier to repair a clay-and-dirt trail. Behan said the stairs leading down from the parking lot to the new bridge will be retractable, so they won’t be damaged should the river flood again.

“One of the things we’ll get to in the next phase is to make that flow better, so that there are designated places for people to walk to Imagine Nation or up to Broadway. We’ll get there,” Behan said.

Inside the brewery on Monday, some neighbors said they hoped the project would make the island more accessible and safer for Missoulians but not diminish the natural environment.

“There’s a delicate balance between wanting to feel less imposed upon by people who are displaced and want to claim it as their own and others who want it to be more of a welcoming community place,” one woman said.

Although the crews need to be done by the end of May, work near the ditch must be complete by May 1. That’s when river water is diverted into the canal to serve irrigators downstream. So completing the two bridges is the first priority, Behan said.

After planning for river improvements for a couple of decades, the City of Missoula acquired the island – which is really a section of riverbank separated from the city by an irrigation canal – in 2011. Managed by the MRA, the current project and aims to protect and enhance the recreational value of the island.

The cost is $500,000, funded by Tax Increment Funding through the MRA. In addition, the Hellgate Valley Irrigation Company is contributing $10,000 to the project to repair the south bank of the irrigation canal.

Behan said he’s still working on getting grants and other money. If any funds come through early, he hopes to add a few details to the project while it’s still under construction.

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