Tusler Bridge will be rehabbed

A centenarian, the Tusler Bridge, also known as the Kinsey Bridge, is showing its age. Now the Montana Department of Transportation (MDT) plans to give it a facelift.

MDT is seeking comments on a proposal to replace the deck of the former railroad bridge, which was converted decades ago to handle vehicular traffic. Other sections of the bridge will also be rehabilitated.

“Based on our estimate project development time and funding availability from both Custer County and the state’s off-system federal aid bridge program, construction will likely occur no earlier than 2021,” said MDT Glendive District Administrator Shane Mintz. There is no set timeline for the project, according to Mintz. 

“We really aren’t far enough along in the project development process to determine what any bridge closures would involve,” said Mintz. 

“We will certainly provide the public with as much advanced notification as possible,” he added.

When the bridge was built in 1907, it carried trains from the now-defunct Chicago Milwaukee St. Paul and Pacific Railroad over the Yellowstone River. The bridge is 1,043 feet long and just over 16 feet wide. 

The conversion to auto traffic consisted of using metal sheets of military surplus material that was once an aircraft landing mat to patch the openings to allow cars to cross the bridge. 

The span is a popular route for Kinsey residents, especially those planning to travel East on Interstate 94, cutting miles off their trip. It is also utilized by sugar beet farmers and is a main route to two fishing access sites. The bridge is located about nine miles northeast of Miles City on Custer County Local Route L09062, also known as the Kinsey Road. 

According to a press release, the proposed work includes replacing the deck on the structure, as well as the approach railing and other structural elements. The project work area extends one-eighth of a mile from each end of the bridge. The method by which the deck will be replaced has yet to be decided. 

During construction the bridge will be closed to traffic and an alternate route will be in place. MDT will work with Custer County officials to figure out detours, Mintz said. 

According to Mintz, closure and detour decisions will take into consideration local residents, the traveling public, emergency services, business interests and others potentially affected. 

“We have not yet determined specific deck rehabilitation methods or materials,” said Mintz. “However, we will investigate available alternatives and determine the best option for the specific site based on performance, long-term durability, constructibility, overall cost, maintenance and other considerations.”

For more information contact Mintz at (406) 345-8212.

Comments can be submitted in writing to Montana Department of Transportation, Glendive Office, P.O. Box 890, Glendive, MT, 59330-0890, or online at www.mdt.mt.gov/mdt/comment_form.shtml.