The general underside of the Giem Bridge. Photo courtesy Madison County Commissioners.

Bridges of Madison County

Madison County Commissioners first allocation of funding for Giem Bridge Replacement

The County Commissioners approved $225,000 contract with Great West Engineering to design and lead the construction and grant administration for the Giem Bridge replacement project during its meeting July 16. 

The estimated cost of removing and replacing the bridge is $1,200,000, according to Madison County’s 2018 Bridge Evaluation. Since 2001, Madison County has used matching-fund grants from the Treasure State Endowment Program to evaluate all County-maintained bridges, prioritize bridge improvements, develop a plan of action, and assist in projects outside of the County’s bridge budget. 

TSEP approved a planning grant for the Giem Bridge replacement, which will split the cost of the project with the county. Natural Resource Business Unit Manager at GWE, Jeremiah Theys, said the design work will begin in the fall and plans for construction to begin the summer of 2020. 

“We want a good structure as affordable as possible,” Madison County Commissioner Chairman Ron Nye said. 

The Giem Bridge on Silver Bow Lane, five miles southwest of Twin Bridges, was listed as Madison County’s most deficient bridge in the 2018 Bridge Evaluation. It received a sufficiency rating of 41.8, which is a measurement of the overall integrity of the structure based on a 0 – 100 scale. Montana Department of Transportation recommends a bridge replacement when the SR is 50 or less. 

According to the Preliminary Engineer Report, Giem Bridge’s overhead steel truss is incapable of supporting its legal load limit of 7 tons. There are numerous deficiencies including corrosion and early section loss of the concrete-filled steel casings. 

The over 100-year-old bridge is classified as “functionally obsolete.” It doesn’t have adequate lane widths, shoulder widths or vertical clearances to serve the current traffic demand. As the primary access to an area serving agricultural, residential and recreational land users, its current state is a public safety hazard and a liability to the county. 

Preliminary preparation like environmental assessments, surveys, permits and easement acquisition discussions are in the near future for bridge replacement. Reconstructing the road for safer driving condition will consist of some negotiating with surrounding land owners and isn’t an official deal. The new Giem Bridge is planned to be generally in the same location, spanning across the Beaverhead River, and have a spacious two-lane roadway.  

Other bridges that topped the 2018 Bridge Evaluation of Madison County were Hutchins Bridge south of Ennis with a SR of 26.1, Silver Spring Road Bridge near Sheridan with a SR of 51.8, and Ramshorn Road Bridge outside of Laurin with a SR of 56.8. 

“We’ve been working to get our bridges evaluated and improved for a while,” Nye said. “I’m glad it’s finally starting to come around.”

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The Madisonian

65 N. MT Hwy 287
Ennis, MT 59729

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