Countering Maclay Bridge BS

by William Skink

Letters to the editor making specious claims about the South Avenue Bridge that WILL eventually replace the “functionally obsolete” Maclay Bridge continue trickling in.

Thankfully, letters countering the bullshit are also getting written up and submitted.

For example, when Sharon Sterbis made the claim that “a new South Avenue bridge could also cost Missoula County Millions,” Bridget Johnson replied with this:

Sharon Sterbis’s recent letter claimed “a new South Avenue bridge could also cost Missoula County Millions.” She cites an Oct. 11 County Public Works meeting that she did not attend. If she had been there (or read the notes), she would have heard (as I did) Shane Stack and Erik Dickson explain 1. their cost estimates are rough numbers, and would be lower if work is done by the county instead of contractors; 2. South Avenue improvements have many potential funding sources without increasing county property taxes.

Johnson lists the many funding sources, then closes with this:

Bottom line: Her claim South Avenue improvements will increase taxes is groundless. But there is a very real threat of large property tax increases if the county abandons the South Avenue Bridge project.

The small group of obstructionists (enabled by Commissioner Dave) who have been waging this decades long fight aren’t just using a deceitful numbers game to drive people into opposing a new bridge at South Avenue. No, they’re also speculating that a dirge of Bitterroot traffic could start using this as a bypass for the Reserve/highway 93 intersection. Here is a good letter countering that line of bullshit:

I read with interest the (Nov. 20) letter submitted by John Shafer of Superior regarding the South Avenue bridge. It is obvious that he has never driven the “shortcut” he refers to.

As a former resident of the Big Flat for over 50 years, I believe that I am qualified to comment on the road in question. The road from 93 to the new bridge site is windy, narrow, and without a complete rebuild requiring substantial removal of Blue Mountain, cannot be improved. Not to mention the irrigation ditch which has an absolute right of way on the mountain side of the road.

Anybody taking this “shortcut” would face at least five right angle corners in addition to the above mentioned problems. Believe me, it will never be a commuter solution for the Bitterroot.

Instead, we have a small group of people who built in the path of the new bridge, knowing that the bridge was in the works, who are handing out a campaign of disinformation in an attempt to scuttle a very worthwhile project for the hundreds of people living in O’Brien Creek and on the Big Flat who will benefit from the new bridge.

Maybe you don’t care that a retired civil structural engineer thinks those of us using this bridge could take a cold dive at any moment, or that Commissioner Dave has a dubious role in stalling for these obstructionists, but anyone reading this does care about money–we have no choice on that–so if you think giving back a million dollars in federal funding and adding a rough estimate of 15 million the County will have to find to rehab Maclay bridge, well, those are real dollars that have to come from some where and we know where that ends up being.

In my hotter moments I envision personally delivering a door-to-door survey to this little Missoula enclave at the end of South Avenue in order to better ascertain how far they are willing to go in order to disregard the established, goddamn-evidence-based reality that a bridge is going to be built there, and soon, before something bad happens.

To be continued…

About Travis Mateer

I'm an artist and citizen journalist living and writing in Montana. You can contact me here: willskink at yahoo dot com
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