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The January 28 ribbon cutting to officially open the new Rattlesnake Creek Bridge was a tribute to adversities overcome by Lemhi County and the tenacity of residents who had been living without a safe-for-vehicles bridge to the other side for the past 18 months.

The state ordered the bridge closed to traffic in July of 2014. Reports to the Lemhi County Commissioners on the 100 year old bridge’s deterioration date to 2013. The bridge originally spanned the Snake River. The county bought it from the state in 1956 to replace the one in use at that time and it became the Rattlesnake Creek Bridge.

Early in 2014 a Road and Bridge rough estimate on a new bridge started at $750,000 for a bridge structure plus $500,000 to install it. At that point the commissioners guessed they were looking at a replacement cost of $2 million.

In May of 2014 Northwest Engineering was commissioned to do a study which produced three alternatives. The first was to repair the existing bridge which amounted to an estimated $250,000 to support light traffic and $750,000 to bring the structure up to a three ton load limit which still would not clear it for bull dozers or fire engines. The repairs would give the old bridge a life span extension of 20 years.

The second alternative presented was to replace the bridge with one built next to it which would have a 50 year life span and cost $1.9 million. The third option was to build a bridge at Lime Creek, one mile south of Rattlesnake Creek, for $1.5 million. It was the preferred alternative at the time however, due to state concerns over traffic visibility issues at the highway access and egress intersection that idea was dismissed.

The study also included alternative land routes on the west side of the Salmon River where there are several ranches in addition to the Twin Peaks Guest Ranch, Twin Peaks Mine and public lands beyond. It was decided that even though it was not the shortest mileage-wise, a road following an old wagon trail from the Rattlesnake Bridge to the Lake Creek Subdivision would be best. Estimated cost for the bladed dirt road was $160,000 and the cost of maintaining it would run around $25,000 a year. The other alternative, from Rattlesnake to Iron Creek, was two miles shorter but due to terrain it would cost an estimated $1,939,331 to build.

An October 8 meeting was held for Lake Creek residents where it became clear the majority of subdivision residents resisted the idea of extra traffic through the area on a year around basis.

By the end of 2014 the initial bridge designs were 50% complete and the Lake Creek road was still being considered. In February 2015 TrueNorth Steel in Missoula was awarded the contract for building the bridge structure with its bid of $500,654.

In March of 2015 bids were opened for the crane needed to put the bridge in place, across a river span of approximately 180 feet with no access on one side. A bid was selected but an objection was filed in April as to the way the bid process was conducted.

Another March bid opening, this one for selection of a bridge abutment construction project manager, was cancelled due to information that was missing in the bid document. County Attorney Bruce Withers advised further rebids be postponed until all state codes were met. At that point the whole project became a ‘do-over’ and the county had to reboot the bridge building process.

In May of last year a Boise company, Deere & Ault Consultants Inc., was hired to drill deeper test holes at the site to verify previous information and a Request for Proposals on the bridge was scheduled for May 22. By that date estimated costs were from $1.2 million to $1.5 million.

On July 27, 2015 RSCI General Contracting-Construction Management Design Builders of Boise was selected for the bridge building project based on their bid of $1,943,700.

To date, the cost of the Rattlesnake Creek Bridge totals $2.855 million. The funds will come from Lemhi County Road and Bridge Department funds that have been being reserved for the project.

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