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State Wants To Remove Toston Bridge


MT43 News Staff Reporter
MT43 News Editor

State Wants To Remove Toston Old Steel Bridge

At State Expense

MT43 News Staff Reporter

The century-old steel bridge across the Missouri River at Toston is in danger of falling apart and needs to be torn down, and the state is willing to pay for its removal, state highway authorities told Broadwater County commissioners. They warned that debris from collapse of the bridge could damage the newly built U.S. Highway 287 bridge and railroad overpass immediately downstream.

Speaking at the commission’s Nov. 8 meeting, they invited the county’s cooperation. Commissioner Darrel Folkvord responded that the county would need to hold public discussions on the matter.

The single-lane old bridge was closed in June 2022 when construction of the new bridge was completed. Last December Toston area people presented a petition with 300 signatures asking commissioners to reopen it.

A stumbling block was the question of who owned the old bridge, the county or the state? The issue was never resolved. Now, the state wants to set ownership aside and demolish it at state expense.

Representing the state at the commission meeting were Geno Liva and Dave Gates, both with the Butte Division of the Montana Department of Transportation (MDOT), and Ryan Dahlke, a statewide preconstruction engineer. Several Toston residents spoke about the importance of the old bridge to their community, primarily for safety. They included Barb DeMartin and former county commissioner Franklin Slifka.

In response to a question, Dahlke speculated it would cost upwards of $10 million to replace the old bridge and one-tenth that amount to remove it. He said repair is not an option because everything about the bridge and its supports is in such poor condition.

Dahlke explained that the immediate threat to the old bridge is the scouring of material from under the bridge’s support piers, as found by inspections over the years. He described it as “scour critical”.

According to records, the old bridge was built in 1920, and financed by a county bond issue. It served as the Missouri crossing for Highway 287 until 1955 when the state built a new bridge and railroad overpass. The old bridge remained open, designated as a bypass.

That 1955 bridge was to prove dangerous with many accidents recorded there. It had a relatively narrow two-lane roadway with a high sharp turn at one end. The newest version, completed in 2022, features a wide roadway with a gentle low curve sweeping through farmland.

Local people complain that access from Toston to the newly built highway is hazardous due to what they say is a poorly designed entryway with no speed-change lanes and poor visibility that makes it difficult to see traffic oncoming from both directions at speeds of 70-80 miles an hour or more.

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PhotoCredit: Photo Credits: Nancy Marks
Image 1 Caption: Bridge at Toston, Montana Photo Credits: Nancy Marks
Image 2 Caption: Toston rancher Hal Plummer stands beside road closure sign near Toston Bridge Photo Credits: Nancy Marks