black and white picture of Flathead River Old Steel Bridge east of Kalispell

The intent of the Adopt-A-Bridge program is to maintain the historic integrity of National Register of Historic Places-eligible bridges that are impacted by Montana Department of Transportation (MDT) bridge replacement projects to the greatest extent reasonable and feasible.

Eligible Structures

Eligible structures are generally bridges that meet the following criteria.

  1. Eligible for the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP)
  2. Currently owned by the State of Montana, a Montana County or City, or the Federal Government.
  3. Are being replaced in a project funded by the Montana Department of Transportation (MDT).

Some types of otherwise eligible structures are not feasible to relocate. Examples of these structure types are reinforced concrete bridges and steel stringer/steel girder bridges. These structures will be evaluated on a case by case basis to determine if “In-Place” adoption is reasonable. If “In-Place” adoption is considered reasonable, they will be considered Eligible Structures.

Adoption Type

A bridge may be adopted “In-Place” or for “Relocation”. A bridge adopted In-Place is generally reused for a new purpose. It is adopted “as is, where is.”

A Relocation adoption generally involves moving one or more bridge span to a new location. The bridge span supports are not a part of the adoption and are typically removed by MDT. Generally, the adopted spans will be moved from the current location to a spot near the current bridge where the new owner takes control. The new owner then moves the spans to their new home. The bridge spans are adopted “as is.”

Adoption Process

Bridge adoption begins with identification and advertisement of eligible bridges. Bridges available for adoption will be advertised on the MDT website. Once advertised, if any applications are received, the selection process begins. Selection is a two-step process; Initial Screening, and Final Selection. The current owner of a bridge is not eligible to adopt the bridge.

Initial Screening

Initial Screening is used to select one or more applicants to move into Final Selection. All applicants will be required to submit the following information in in their initial application:

  1. New owner of the structure?
  2. What will be the intended use of the bridge?
  3. Who will use the bridge?
  4. Where will the bridge be located?
  5. If moved to a new site, how will this be accomplished?
  6. A preliminary estimate of initial and long term costs.
  7. A preliminary funding plan.

The applications will be screened based on information in the initial application. The screening will consider the applicant’s historic preservation of the structure, potential for public access, and initial financial plans. Up to 3 applicants may be advanced to Final Selection.

Final Selection

The Final Selection process is intended to insure that the successful applicant is a responsible party that is able to take over ownership and maintenance of the bridge and that the applicant has a plan that has a reasonable chance of success.

The Final Selection applicants are required to submit a report presenting their plan for the bridge. At a minimum, the report needs to contain the following items:

  1. The planned use for the Bridge.
  2. Modifications and changes to the bridge.
  3. Amount of public access to the bridge.
  4. Identification of required permits.
  5. Identification of interested or affected parties.
  6. Statements of support from affected or interested parties.
  7. Initial costs to implement the plan such as;
    1. Moving costs.
    2. Installation costs.
    3. Bridge modification and improvement costs.
    4. Others.
  8. Long term costs such as;
    1. Bridge Condition (Safety) Inspection
      1. Structural Condition Inspection
      2. Underwater Inspection
    2. Bridge maintenance costs.
    3. Liability Insurance.
    4. Others.
  9. Cost funding plan.
    1. Initial costs.
    2. Long term costs.
  10. Contingency Plan for future demolition, should it become necessary.

The reports will be screened based on these criteria:

  • Historic preservation of the structure
  • Level of public access
  • Identification of affected or interested parties
  • Level of support from affected or interested parties
  • Understanding of ownership costs
  • Viability of funding plan
  • Contingency planning

The report screening process is intended to determine whether the applicants are responsible parties that are able to take over ownership and maintenance of the bridge and that the applicants have a plan that has a reasonable chance of success. Applicants meeting those criteria will be ranked and the high ranked applicant will be offered the adoption.

If this screening process results in multiple applicants ranked essentially equal, then priority will be given using the table below.

Applicant Priority

Adoption Type
Adoptee In-Place Relocation
Government Entity 1 1
Established Civic Group 2 4
Non-Incorporated or Non-Profit Group 3 5
Individual n/a 6

Adoption Agreement, Future Liability for Bridge, Historical Integrity

The new owner will be required to sign an adoption agreement holding the State, County and/or City harmless for any structural problems, lead paint, hazardous materials, and any other potential future liabilities associated with the bridge.

This agreement will contain the conditions by which the new owner will agree to be a "responsible party" and agree to maintain the historic integrity of the structure. The bridge does not have to be maintained as a vehicular bridge, but can function as a component of a public bicycle/pedestrian path or other use. Parts of the report submitted during Final Selection may be included in the agreement.

For adoption In-Place and in some cases Relocation, the new owner may be required to provide a bond in an amount to be determined by the State to cover the cost of future demolition of the structure. The bond will be used in the event the new owner defaults on the commitment for care and maintenance of the bridge.

Adopt-A-Bridge Fees

There is no fee for adoption of an Eligible Structure.

In-Place Adoption

For In-Place adoptions, MDT generally saves the cost of bridge removal. The new owner may be eligible for a Historic Preservation Grant up to the cost of bridge removal. Generally, the cost of removal will be estimated by MDT prior to any construction. This estimated cost will be the upper limit for any grant. The estimated removal cost will typically not be representative of a future removal cost since the cost estimate assumes the removal is a part of a larger construction project.

Relocation Adoption

For Relocation adoptions, MDT generally incurs costs for handling of the bridge spans and for removal of the bridge support units. It is assumed that these costs will equal the normal costs of bridge removal. Historic Preservation Grants will not be available for Relocation adoptions.