By Tim Leeds
Havreites will have another opportunity to participate in the planning of improvements to First Street, slated to begin in 2006.
The Montana Department of Transportation is holding a public meeting on Dec. 3 in the community room of Triangle Telephone Cooperative at 7 p.m.
"The purpose of the meeting on the third is to ask the public what it would like to see as far as a finished project goes," said Mick Johnson, MDT Great Falls district administrator.
The project will rebuild the street from the west edge of town to the east edge of town, from about where the water treatment plant is to where the old Kmart building is, Johnson said.
The project will include new pavement, signs, signals, striping and improved drainage. Work on beautification and curbs and sidewalks could also be included.
U.S. Highway 2, which is maintained by MDT, is called First Street when it passes through Havre.
A major question, raised by downtown business owners, is what the project will do to the number of lanes and on-street parking.
Johnson said deciding how the configuration will look is why the meeting is being held.
"We have no preconceived notion how this is going to look, how it will be built," he said. "Give us a direction and we will start to design it."
MDT hired Morrison Maerle, a Montana consultant, to talk to business owners and residents about their concerns, and to study traffic and accident rates on the street.
The firm's findings will be presented during the meeting, Johnson said. In fact, 90 percent of the meeting will probably be the presentation and discussion of its findings, he said.
He didn't know this morning what those findings are, he added.
"Everybody is going to be there to tell us what they have found," he said.
Another study is being done to see how much water from the south side of Havre ends up draining into First Street, Johnson said.
Part of the decision-making process will include how the construction will proceed whether there will be street closures, detours, and so on.
"There will be some inconveniences to businesses down town, but how are we going to least impact them," Johnson said.
Havre public works director Dave Peterson said the city is still planning to piggy-back some work on the water and sewer mains under the street with the MDT project.
MDT resurfaced the street from Montana Avenue to the west edge of town in 2000, and built a center turning lane the length of the project at that time. That required eliminating on street parking.
Johnson said the work in 2000 did not deal with any structural problems in the highway. The main construction on the street happened in 1952, and has not had major repairs done to it since 1979.
The work on the western part of the project may or may not have major configuration changes, Johnson said. That depends on the input from the community.
Once a preferred design is decided on, MDT will have work on actually designing the highway begin very quickly, Johnson said. MDT will keep in contact with the public and local officials while the design is being drafted, he added.
The public has to let its needs be known, Johnson said.
"Projects like these are the ones that Havre's going to have for the next 30 to 50 years," he said.