Our last update delivered several months ago, reported on the status of Maclay Bridge and its proposed replacement, South Avenue Bridge. Though the preliminary engineering and environmental reports were due last November, the final documents were not submitted to Montana Department of Transportation (MDT) and Federal Highway Administration until January 9, 2017. (As you may recall, some preliminary environmental reports had been submitted as early as September and reported in earlier project updates.) Maclay Bridge Alliance (MBA) wrote letters of objection based upon the Categorical Exclusion (CE) requested by Missoula County to avoid requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the Montana Environmental Policy Act (MEPA). MBA directors also drove to Helena to protest the CE. In that capacity, we delivered acceptable alternative paths for this project.
Though we expected a decision within a few weeks, we heard nothing. Inquiries in April led to a report that Federal Highway Administration had completed their review of the environmental document and sent it back to Montana Department of Transportation. MDT was doing an intensive legal review.
Several inquiries to MDT since April have gone unanswered. Status updates from MDT and Missoula County are being neglected with bureaucratic silence. In the meantime, landowners adjacent to both the Maclay Bridge route and the South Avenue Bridge route are left in limbo regarding this decision and that impacts their land values.
What happens next? If the decision is to go forward with the CE, engineering design will resume and a public meeting, originally scheduled for last November will be advertised and held. Such a course of action will likely spawn a lawsuit. On the other-hand, if the decision moves toward an Environmental Impact Statement, work will be scheduled for that approach. Finally, if the decision is to rehabilitate Maclay Bridge, a CE can more than likely proceed and the work can commence for that option, saving time and millions of dollars.
Finally, news you can use:
We have a new website (the one you’re on now) at: MaclayBridgeAlliance.org. Use of our old web addresses will automatically bring you to this site, so we urge you to visit. The easily navigated site provides quickly accessed, accurate information about the status of the South Avenue Bridge design and environmental report. It also provides viable alternatives for rehabilitation of Maclay Bridge provided by our nationally recognized engineers, and it offers a form for membership in MBA. Please check it out and let us know what you think.