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Residents concerned over I-90 access during Bearmouth construction

GRANITE COUNTY – Residents in the Bear Gulch area of Granite County got an unwelcomed surprise this morning, waking to find that their access to Missoula had a big detour.

The Montana Department of Transportation (MDT) has closed the westbound on ramp at Bearmouth (mm 138) while it continues nearby bridge work on Interstate 90. According to an MDT press release the closure is due to there not being enough room for an acceleration lane at that point due to the construction.

However, Bear Gulch residents like Kat Wood were concerned to learn that their access to Missoula – specifically for matters of medical emergencies – would need an additional 10 mile drive back to Drummond to access the interstate, adding an additional 20 miles to their westward commute. The added time and gas expense are major concerns for residents of that area.

According to Public Relations Specialist Megan Redmond, the project is estimated to be approximately 35 days. She added, “… if there are any delays with weather, etc., it could be longer.”

Flint Creek Courier FILE PHOTO

This is the second time in three years that the residents of Bear Gulch have had major road issues. In 2019 a rock slide caused the Drummond Frontage Road to be closed while MDT figured out how to best solve the problem. Their solution was to create single-lane access on the south side of the road while using K-rails to hold back rocks and debris in the northern lane.

Below is the full MDT press release:

Limited Access on I 90 at the Bearmouth Interchange

Bearmouth – The westbound onramp at the I 90 Bearmouth Interchange will be closed starting Monday, June 27 as the Montana Department of Transportation (MDT) continues bridge work nearby. Westbound traffic will be diverted to one lane on the eastbound side of I 90 through the end of the summer.

This closure is part of the I 90 Bridge preservation project that began the week of April 18 with crossover work and traffic controls in place. The public should expect single lane traffic controls near starting at the Bearmouth Interchange and extending west for about two miles.

All traffic entering I 90 at the Bearmouth Interchange will head east, with any westbound travelers able to exit at Drummond and re-enter the highway from that exit. Due to the proximity of the bridge work, there is not sufficient space for an acceleration lane for westbound travelers, creating an unsafe area.

The public should expect some delays, single lane traffic, and a 12-foot width restriction though the area. There will be a staging area for vehicles that do not meet the width restriction between 7 a.m. and 11 a.m.

“Projects like this can only be done in warm, dry weather, so we really have a limited window to complete the work,” said John Schmidt, Missoula District Construction Engineer. “We know delays and construction zones can be frustrating and we really appreciate everyone’s patience as we work on making repairs to these bridges.”

This project will bring all these bridges including roadway approaches and bridge railings up to current safety standards and extend the life of these structures and create a smoother ride for all vehicles. The surface of six bridges between Missoula and Drummond has deteriorated and is in need of repair, as well as two additional bridges that will get a full deck replacement.

MDT wants everyone to remember the three S’s of work zone safety: speed, space, and stress. Slow down in work zones and follow speed limits. Leave enough room around your vehicle. Stay calm and pay attention to the road. Be prepared for delays or winter conditions so before you leave, download MDT’s mobile app “MDT 511” or visit and check your route. If you're driving and want to check in, pull safely off the road and dial 511. Tune in to local radio stations and watch for variable message signs along the route.

The public is encouraged to contact Missoula District Public Relations Specialist Megan Redmond at (406) 396-1978 or Project Manager Brett Lloyd at (406) 523-5877 with any questions or comments.

MDT is committed to keeping Missoula abreast of all road construction projects and their associated purposes, costs, and traffic delays.

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