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Construction begins on Billings Bypass bridge over Yellowstone River

Construction begins on Billings Bypass bridge over Yellowstone River
Posted at 11:02 AM, Dec 08, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-08 13:02:46-05

Construction crews contracted by Montana Department of Transportation have started work on the second phase of the Billings Bypass project, a bridge over the Yellowstone River near Dover Park.

On Monday, Doug Enderson, project manager and transportation engineer at DOWL in Billings, gave an update on the bridge that crews started building a few months ago.

“Luckily this winter, we’ve had a favorable winter, so progress continues to go. Right now, they are trying to get a lot of the work done in the river before the spring runoff comes up, which will definitely be a challenge," Enderson said.

DOWL is the engineering firm that Montana Department of Transportation selected to design the project.

The Billings Bypass is the biggest construction project ever undertaken by Montana Department of Transportation, Enderson said. The project is broken up into six phases and once complete, will serve as an arterial roadway connecting the Johnson Lane Interchange in Lockwood to the end of Main Street in Billings Heights near Highway 87 and Highway 312.

The bridge is the second phase of the project.

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Temporary bridge structure under construction across the Yellowstone River near Dover Park in Billings

On Monday, workers with Utah-based Wadsworth Brothers Construction were pounding supports for a temporary bridge into the riverbed. The bridge will allow construction equipment access across the river while building the bridge.

Enderson said the Wadsworth Brothers contract extends into 2022, but they are currently on track to have the lion's share of the project done by the end of 2021.

"The contractor is on schedule, and they actually plan to hopefully get to substantial completion by the end of 2021 and have a little bit of work that will spill over into 2022," Enderson said.

It might be odd to hear of major construction happening in December in Montana. The mild winter Billings has experienced thus far is good for bridge construction. Enderson said crews can't do much work when the river is high with spring runoff, so they're trying to get as much done as they can before then.

"They’re also keeping their eye on the ice jams and the ice flows that come down through here. The work bridge that you see behind us is set up such so that it can handle those ice jams and ice flows and hopefully they can get a lot of the work within the river done so they can continue to keep moving once the high water does come so that they can take some time off," Enderson said.

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Poured foundations for the Yellowstone River bridge on the Billings Bypass.

The bridge will divide the property of Dover Park in half, connecting to 5 Mile Road with a roundabout. Enderson said the park owners have been involved in the planning process and are excited about the bridge, because it will offer a pedestrian and bike sidewalk that will be separated from the road.

The construction will also add two tunnels underneath the bridge so park goers can still access the trail system.

"We’ve been working with them extensively for the last couple of years to let them know exactly what we planned on doing with the road and bridge design, but then also help the functionality of their park as far as users can get back and forth to both sides and keep them safe," Enderson said.

The bridge portion of the Billings Bypass is the second phase to go to construction. Construction was completed on the first phase a few months back, Enderson said. The first phase extended and widened 5 Mile Road from Mary Street to Highway 312 with a roundabout.

“That project, the construction went very well. The neighbors were happy and it’s open to traffic now," Enderson said.

According to the state's web site, the entire Billings Bypass is scheduled for completion by the end of 2025. Cars won't be able to drive on the bridge until more phases on the east side of the river are complete, Enderson said.

To learn more about the project and take a virtual tour of the construction phases, visit the project web site by clicking here.

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A view of the east side of the Yellowstone River looking from Dover Park at Billings Bypass bridge construction.