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 Madison Street Bridge Rehabilitation  

Missoula, Montana

January 2017 – August 2017

Frontier West 

Challenge: The Madison Street Bridge Rehabilitation project (MSBR) posed a unique challenge for Frontier West and 

Montana Department of Transportation. While significant traffic counts on a bridge in a metro area are not unusual, the 

positioning of the Madison Street Bridge in the Missoula community is distinct. As the gateway to the University of Montana, 

the bridge has a disproportionatenumber of young adult users. Add to that Missoula’s pedestrian and bicycle culture, a high 

daily, vehicle volume and an extremely engaged community, all to be reached in a short period of time due to the fact that 

the project was fast tracked by MontanaDepartment of Transportation when portions of the bridge deck began dropping on 

the Kim Williams trail system below. The planning process for the bridge was based off prior bridge studies and engineering 

know-how but the urgency of repair meant public involvement had to be conducted near the end of the planning process, just 

six weeks prior to the first public awareness efforts rolled into action.

Approach: Big Sky Public Relations started by identifying approximately 30 stakeholder groups and influencers likely to be 

most impacted by MSBR, ranging from emergency response services and the City of Missoula to the 

Missoula Downtown Alliance and University of Montana. Over the course of four weeks, our team met with representatives 

from these organizations to identify and resolve potential issues likely to crop up during construction and to elicit stakeholder commitment to serve as community partners, working with our team to push updates out to their audiences. The public 

involvement not only mitigated potential issues, it engaged a powerhouse outreach network, which has fully engaged through 

the public awareness phase of the project. The following public awareness campaign had a diverse cross-section of methods and media designed to college students, area commuters, adjacent business and residents. Public awareness efforts started 

with an open house and large media push and is supported on an- ongoing basis by highly targeted digital and social media 

advertising, broadcast advertising, weekly email and website updates, bi- weekly public meetings, robust media relations 

outreach and complaint mitigation.

Results: The Madison Street Bridge Rehabilitation public involvement and public awareness efforts created an overall positive community and stakeholder response. The City of Missoula’s communications manager, Ginny Merriam, shared 

recently that the City did not receive even one complaint about the project, an unlikely feat given the project’s location and 

significant impact on the traveling public.

What our clients say: “Big Sky Public Relations’ strategic approach and personable team made what might have been an 
incredibly complex, tense outreach process into a positive opportunity to build relationships in the community. Their public 
involvement process ensured there were no unpleasant surprises with stakeholders prior to or at the start of construction. Their multi- faceted continuing public awareness campaign has kept the community well informed, which has led to patience 
and understanding as our crews worked on the MadisonStreet Bridge Rehabilitation. Their partnership has been an important part in this project’s success.”  
- Mike Murphy, Frontier West Project Manager