Depression-Era Montana Bridge May Join National Register

Today's highway contractors may see parallels in the story of the Bighorn River Bridge's construction: The contractor underbid the project and eventually was declared in default, so Montana Highway Department workers completed it in 1933.

The Bighorn River Bridge, a 624-foot riveted steel bridge in southern Montana that was built between 1931 and 1933 as its original contractor struggled to survive, is being considered for listing on the National Register of Historic Places, with the National Park Service announcing Wednesday it will accept comments about this and other pending listings until Dec. 24. This bridge is one of the last Pennsylvania through truss bridges left in the state, crossing the Big Horn River near its confluence with the Yellowstone River, according to the nomination form submitted by the Montana Highway Department. The form contains a black-and-white photograph showing the bridge's high, distinctive design.

Other than routine maintenance, the bridge has not been substantially changed since its construction, and the surrounding area remains agricultural land, according to the document. The bridge originally was part of U.S. Highway 10, but Interstate 94 bypassed the bridge in 1979, and Highway 10 was then redesignated as a frontage road.

Today's highway contractors may see parallels in the story of the four-span bridge's construction: The contractor, Edward J. Dunnigan Inc. of St. Paul, Minn., received a $120,211 contract to build it, but the firm "severely underbid" the project because it needed the work and was unprepared to do the job, the form states. The Montana Highway Commission declared Dunnigan in default of the contract in February 1932, and Montana Highway Department workers completed the bridge the following year.

Written comments concerning the bridge's significance may be mailed to the National Register of Historic Places, National Park Service, 1849 C St. NW, 2280, Washington, DC 20240.

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