Road, bridge reconstruction underway near Florence


FLORENCE, Mont. - A reconstruction project on East Side Highway near Florence is underway.

Work is ongoing from where East Side forks off Highway 93, and extends about two miles just past 8 Mile, to Bullrun.

By late fall, the heavily traveled road will look quite different.

The pricetag for the state and federally funded project is about $9 million.

In the past few years, the area just east of Florence has morphed from mostly rural to a number of subdivisions filled with commuters. Montana Highway Department of Transportation statistics show 8,000 vehicles travel the stretch every day.

"Safety is the main concern," said Montana Department of Transportation project engineer Bill Maart.

Crews are updating every inch of road and bridge from Highway 93 to Bullrun on the East Side Highway.

"They're putting in a roundabout on 8 Mile here and rebuilding the bridge for more capacity," said Maart.

The current Florence Bridge over the Bitterroot River will be torn out. There's a temporary work bridge so contractors will have a place to work while they build the new one. The new bridge will have two lanes, with a wider median and a bike path.

At 8 Mile will be the Bitterroot's first roundabout. It's about 200 feet in diameter.

"It was sized for traffic," said Maart, "so it's a pretty good-sized roundabout."

There will also be a bicycle-pedestrian underpass.

"I think it's a little bit overkill," said area resident, AndrewCattaneo. "It doesn't seem like we need a roundabout put in."

There is plenty of stop, wait and go. Traffic backs up at rush hour, especially.

"I'm just going to drive to Stevensville," said area resident Tom Zeigler, "and double back until they get this done."

"The road construction is a pain," said area resident Erica Amt, "but we needed something to keep the road a lot safer."

The state estimates by 2033 traffic will have doubled on this stretch.

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