Following Closure of Bigfork’s Historic Bridge, Tester Urges Secretary Buttigieg to “act rapidly” to Assist Montana’s Efforts to Replace and Reopen the Bridge Street Bridge

Senator: “This historic bridge is critically important to the economic success and safety of the Bigfork community”

U.S. Senator Jon Tester today sent a letter pressing Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg regarding Bigfork’s historic Bridge Street Bridge, which safety inspectors closed in January after a troubling inspection revealed safety concerns. 

The bridge is one of only two roadways connecting downtown Bigfork with Montana Highway 35.

Writing to Secretary Buttigieg, Tester stressed the importance of the Bridge Street Bridge to Bigfork’s community and economy: “This historic bridge is critically important to the economic success and safety of the Bigfork community, which is one of Montana’s most popular summer tourism destinations. I am concerned about the immediate effects that this bridge’s closure may have on the ability for local residents and tourists to travel to and from Bigfork’s main street.”

Tester called on the Secretary to move quickly to assist the Montana Department of Transportation with any technical assistance needed for the project: “In the coming weeks, I ask that you prioritize working with the Montana Department of Transportation (MDT) and the local community to develop a plan to swiftly deploy funds from my bipartisan infrastructure legislation to address this bridge closure and restore traffic flow to the community.”

Federal highway and bridge money secured by Senator Tester is delivered to Governor Gianforte and the Montana Department of Transportation who are then in charge of working with local stakeholders to deliver specific projects like bridge replacements.  

Tester continued to highlight the delayed construction due to insufficient funds, citing record funding from his bipartisan infrastructure law as a solution for emergency bridge replacements: “I understand MDT initially scheduled work to begin in 2023.  Unfortunately, it appears this project was delayed until 2026 with lack of funding availability as a key contributor. I understand bridge replacement projects can require significant investments.  That’s why in 2021, I helped to write and pass the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which appropriates funds each year for the Federal Highway Administration’s (FHWA) Bridge Formula Program.  This year, Montana will receive $45 million through this program, $6.75 million of which must be used for off-system bridges like the Bridge Street Bridge. It appears to me that repair or replacement of the Bridge Street Bridge would be an excellent use of Montana’s Bridge Formula Program funding.”

Tester concluded his letter by strongly urging Secretary Buttigieg to support efforts to replace the bridge: “I ask that you act rapidly to support Montana’s efforts to replace the historic Bridge Street Bridge.”

Tester has long championed replacement and repairs to aging infrastructure in Montana, including in his historic bipartisanInfrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA). Tester worked with five Republicans and four Democrats to negotiate the IIJAand was the only member of Montana’s Congressional delegation to vote for the bill.

Tester secured significant wins for Montana in the IIJA, including $2.82 billion for Montana’s roads, highways and bridges; $2.5 billion to complete all authorized Indian water rights settlements; $1 billion to complete all authorized rural water projects through the Bureau of Reclamation; $65 billion to deploy broadband to areas across the country that lack internet access and additionally make online connectivity affordable; and $3.37 billion to reduce wildfire risk nationwide, among others. Tester also worked to ensure that all iron, steel, and construction materials used for these projects must be made in America.

Read Tester’s full letter to Secretary Buttigieg HERE.