The bridge spanning Beaver Creek on the Milk River Road west of Hinsdale was built in 1915 and has been re-planked a few times over the years, but not much else has been done to it in the past 99 years.
Countless school bus trips have traversed this structure carrying hundreds of school children into Hinsdale. Ranchers and farmers have used this bridge to move some of their smaller farming equipment, and the occasional herd of cattle from one side of the creek to the other.
The Hinsdale ambulance has made many emergency runs over this bridge to lend aid and transportation to a cowboy who thought he could ride the rough one, to a young mother with childbirth complications, to a heart attack victim, and the list goes on. A veteran returning from WWI marveled at this bridge that would save him a few hours of travel by horseback or wagon to reach his home.
Now, it seems, this nearly 100-year-old structure is close to being a very large pile of scrap iron.
The big question for Valley County and the state of Montana is to build another bridge that will last another 100 years, or to scrap this one and have people who live a mere mile and a half north of the bridge make the 7.8 mile trek from the bridge west along the Milk River Road to the Hinsdale Livestock Road then south to Highway 2 and east to Hinsdale.
Hinsdale school has a bus route along the Milk River Road that crosses the bridge twice a day. If the bridge isn't replaced, it would mean an extra 5,616 miles that some riders would be on the bus in a school year. In dollars it would mean 702 gallons of fuel at today's $3.65 off road diesel prices for a total of $2,562. And the safety factor cannot be ignored.
The bridge is on a blind corner where traffic moving south cannot see traffic coming toward them until both vehicles are nearly on the bridge.
A new bridge seems to be the best answer from a public safety standpoint as well as an economic issue.
Quite a few folks use the bridge when hunting or fishing in the many block management areas along the Milk River Road. The confluence of Beaver Creek and the Milk River is just a mile and a half from the bridge. It is very good whitetail deer area and the fishing is good as well, both in the river and the creek.
The bridge has been No. 1 on the "repair or replace" list for the county and state for at least 10 years while other bridges have been built in other places. It's time to get this project up and rolling for the benefit of all concerned.
For questions about this project or to offer your input, contact your Valley County Commissioners office at 228-6219. Or send a letter addressed to the Valley County Commissioners, but mail it to: Karl Yakawich, Great Western Engineering, P.O. Box 4817, Helena, MT 59604.
That's it for now folks. Thanks for listening.