Seeley Swan Pathfinder -


Maclay Bridge is a Seeley-Swan problem


September 19, 2019

MISSOULA - Perhaps many of you in the Seeley-Swan Valley area are aware there is an old bridge down in Missoula on the west side of town. It has been the subject of debate and controversy for over 25 years. Undoubtedly, most of you believe you have bigger things to worry about than some “neighborhood” dispute about a bridge. Let us take a minute and give you some reasons why you should be very concerned about what some of your County Commissioners are up to.

In 1994, studies began to see if replacing the old Maclay Bridge was feasible, and at what cost. There was considerable public outcry from residents of the last quarter mile stretch on South Avenue as the analyses demonstrated the best place for a replacement was at the end of their road. They hired unlicensed out of state consultants to further their interests, causing delays while the county, Montana Department of Transportation (MDT), and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) had to complete more studies to refute the concerns raised, and the bill for all of these studies grew and grew. Eventually, in its last agreement with Missoula County (voted on unanimously by the Commissioners at the time) for yet another study, MDT included a clause stating if the county does not proceed with the project at the study’s conclusion, the county must repay all the cost of all studies to date, $1.4 million dollars.

For some unknown reason, some of our new Commissioners have chosen to oppose the bridge project. Even though Missoula County will be awarded $15 million dollars of federal gas tax money to replace the old bridge at the new site, their vision involves rehabilitating the old bridge, which has been estimated at over $13 million dollars and includes potentially having to remove five to six homes to make the bridge approaches comply with safety guidelines. Oh, and don’t forget the $1.4 million that will have to be paid to MDT/FHWA for past studies. The federal gas money is NOT available for rehabilitation because it is not a feasible alternative.

Here is where property owners of Seeley/Swan should be sitting up and taking notice. All residents of Missoula County (which includes most of you) pay into a county bridge fund. It’s on your tax bill. There currently isn’t enough in the bridge fund to even pay back the money owed to MDT/FHWA, much less try and rehab the old, dilapidated bridge and relocate five or six families. So, the choice seems simple enough. The Commissioners can advance the bridge project and utilize $15 million dollars of Federal funds, or they can continue to seek delays to appease a few homes at the end of South Avenue, ultimately coming back to Missoula County taxpayers and asking for another increase in our taxes.

Please call or write and encourage the Commissioners to accept the money and proceed with the project.


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