Montana Department of Transportation releases new load displays for 4 bridges in McCone and Dawson counties

Circle, MT – The Montana Department of Transportation (MDT) recently released new load displays for the Cottonwood Creek Bridge on MT 200, 8 miles northeast of Circle, McCone County; the Bluff Creek Bridge on MT 200, 14 miles southwest of Richey, Dawson County; the Skull Creek Bridge, on MT 200, 18 miles west of Brockway, McCone County; and the Horse Creek Bridge on Horse Creek Road, 1 mile west of Circle, McCone County. The displays are part of a multi-year effort to update load ratings and displays on Montana’s bridges as required by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA).

FHWA’s mandate is in response to changes in the trucking industry over the past decade. Truck manufacturers are building Specialized Haulage Vehicles (SHVs) capable of legally hauling heavier loads than typical vehicles in the past. SHVs are one-piece, short-wheelbase, multi-axle trucks commonly used in the construction, waste management, bulk freight, and freight transportation industries. Often one or more axles can be raised or lowered as needed to comply with legal weight limits.

These SHV configurations concentrate heavy loads in a short length, and have been found to overload bridges beyond what was previously modeled by standard utility vehicles. To account for their growing presence and ensure safe operation, the FHWA has determined that all states must include these new short and heavy vehicles when evaluating safe limits of bridge capacity.

MDT is currently updating load ratings for 4,500 public bridges across the state, including approximately 2,500 owned and maintained by MDT to comply with the mandate. This effort is expected to last about four years.

Bridge weight restrictions are required when the engineering analysis of a bridge, known as the load rating, indicates that it cannot support standard legal loads. Load ratings provide information about the distributed weight that can safely pass over a bridge. The load display panels indicate the maximum weight limits for different types of vehicles, depending on their axle configuration. A post bridge is safe to use, but the weight of some vehicles must be limited accordingly.

The new displays on these 4 decks apply to SHVs; they limit the maximum laden weight of unit vehicles with:

• Cottonwood Creek Bridge: 6 or 7 axles at 31 tonnes

• Bluff Creek bridge: 5, 6 or 7 axles up to 27 tonnes

• Skull Creek Bridge: 4, 5, 6 or 7 axles up to 25 tons

• Horse Creek Bridge: 6 or 7 axles at 31 tonnes

Further information on understanding and interpreting Montana’s weight limit signs and silhouettes can be found in MDT’s Load Display Brochure, located here:

The exact locations of the four bridges can be seen on Google Maps:





To help with public awareness and education about the Bridge Load Display Program, MDT has created an interactive map with statewide displayed bridge locations available at:

For the most up-to-date information and additional resources, visit MDT’s Bridge Load Viewer Program website at

For questions about the program or specific bridges, please call the project hotline at 1-888-824-8445 or email MDTbridgeloadp[email protected]

Other accessible formats of this document will be provided upon request. Individuals requiring an alternate format should contact the Civil Rights Office, Department of Transportation, 2701 Prospect Avenue, PO Box 201001, Helena, MT 59620. Phone 406-444-5416 or Montana Relay Service at 711.

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