Nixon Bridge Crosses East Gallatin River

A car drives over the old Nixon Bridge above the East Gallatin River near Manhattan in this Chronicle file photo.

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Fish, Wildlife and Parks is closing the boat ramp at the Gallatin Forks Fishing Access Site beginning Monday during the construction of the new Nixon Bridge.

The Nixon Bridge takeout and access area will also be closed until construction on bridge is complete. Completion of the new two-lane, concrete bridge is expected in late September, according to a FWP news release.

Gallatin County opted to reconstruct Nixon Bridge, a historic one-lane, through-truss steel bridge north of Manhattan, because of safety concerns. The bridge crosses the Gallatin River on Nixon Gulch Road.

Because of the bridge’s narrow width and low weight capacity, commissioners worried fire trucks and other emergency vehicles wouldn’t be able to cross it to reach the Gallatin River Ranch, a subdivision in the Horseshoe Hills. Alternative routes to reach the subdivision could take longer and are sometimes impassable.

Sections of the Gallatin River near the construction site may close intermittently to protect the public, FWP wrote. The Fish and Wildlife Commission is gathering comments on a proposal to enable the department to close portions of the Gallatin while construction is underway.

If the commission approves this proposal, FWP will provide river users with a passable waterway channel around the construction site, but can temporarily close the river “when a clear and present risk to public safety is anticipated.”

The Nixon Bridge replacement project was hotly contested before its approval, as many think the century-old bridge should be preserved as a historic structure. County commissioners committed to preserving a portion of the bridge after it is removed.

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Helena Dore can be reached at hdore@dailychronicle.com or at 582-2628.

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