By Tim Leeds/Havre Daily Newsfirstname.lastname@example.org
As expected, both state and federal highway officials recommend an improved two-lane road for the portion of U.S. Highway 2 between Havre and Fort Belknap in the final environmental impact statement for the project.
The report will be available Friday for public comment.
After reviewing those comments, the Federal Highway Administration will issue a final decision on the highway's design. The project will then become eligible for future federal funding.
The project is the first under a bill passed by the 2001 Legislature, requiring the Montana Department of Transportation to seek federal funding to widen the highway to four lanes across the state.
MDT in October 2003 had selected a four-lane configuration as its preferred alternative, saying the 2001 law required it to do so. It reversed itself in September, saying the EIS does not support widening the highway to four lanes.
The FHWA has always selected an improved two-lane road with passing and turning lanes as its preferred alternative.
The EIS notes that the 2001 bill required MDT to build a four-lane exclusively with federal funds. If the department can't secure sufficient federal funding and has to use state money, a two-lane highway meets the requirements of the bill, the EIS said.
Highway 2 Association president Bob Sivertsen could not be reached for comment this morning. He said in a recent interview that the association hadn't given up on building a four-lane from Havre to Fort Belknap.
The association also will continue to push for widening the highway to four lanes across the state, Sivertsen said.
The public comment period on the EIS ends Nov. 15. Copies of the document will be available at the Hill County Commission office, the Havre-Hill County Library, the MDT office and the Vande Bogart Library at Montana State University-Northern in Havre; at the Blaine County Commission office, the Blaine County Library and Sweet Memorial Nursing Home in Chinook; at the Harlem City Hall, the Harlem Public Library and Little Rockies Senior and Retirement Center in Harlem; and Fort Belknap College and the Fort Belknap Indian Community Council office in Fort Belknap.
Copies will be available over the Internet at www.mdt.state.us/environmental/eis-ea/. Additional copies can be requested from MDT through Karl Helvik, Montana Department of Transportation, P.O. Box 201001, Helena, MT 59620-1001, (406)444-5446, e-mail: email@example.com.