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Columbia Falls man works to save historic bridge

By Chris Ferreira, KCFW Reporter, cferreira@kcfw.com
Published On: Aug 10 2014 04:50:00 PM MDT
Updated On: Aug 10 2014 10:55:11 PM MDT
KALISPELL, Mont. -

It's been in limbo since it was closed to traffic in 1989. But Greg Fortin is trying to bring the Old Red Bridge back to life.

"If we let it go much longer it's just going to get more and more expensive to fix it, or inevitably that it will get removed," said Fortin.

He lives just a few blocks from the bridge and in January decided to restart the fight to save it. His plan is for it to be re-purposed into a pedestrian walkway and a connector for bike paths.

"Incorporating a bike trail into this system and being able to enjoy the river for what it is would be a great attraction for people to come and visit Columbia Falls," said Fortin.

The bridge might look like it is in pretty bad shape, but according to an engineering study, it's actually holding up quite well. Flathead County ordered that report in 2009. It found that the deck needs to be replaced, but the overall structure is in great shape.

"That engineering information that we got was great information showing us that yes, there's something worth while here," said Fortin.

He sent that information off to a company to see how much it might cost to renovate the structure.

And people we spoke with who live in the area say they would love to see the bridge saved.

"Save it and try to rebuild it. Make it easier for people to get around I think. It wouldn't look like trash now like it does," said Nathan Warner who lives just down the street from the bridge.

The fight won't be easy, and Fortin knows the project won't be cheap.

"And you know, a project like this is not going to be inexpensive. It's a little daunting for a town like Columbia Falls," said Fortin.

All he has to do is think of what the bridge could be and it makes all the work worth while.

"Maybe this thing is the heart of Columbia Falls and when this thing gets brought back around it can be ya know tremendous for a small town like us," said Fortin.

He is waiting to hear back from the company to see how much the repairs might cost. And while he says the town and county have been cooperative. the big question everyone wants to know is how much will it cost and where will the money come from.