Havre Daily News
State, local and Canadian officials will meet at the border Tuesday to celebrate the paving of the last unimproved nine miles of the St. Joe Road south of the Canadian border.
Local officials said they hope the improvements will mean more business and more tourism for Havre.
Hill County Commission chair Kathy Bessette said today the last section has been awaiting pavement for at least 15 years. The road was paved on the Canadian side about 25 years ago, she said, and Hill County officials at that time agreed to make every effort to get the road paved on the U.S. side of the border.
A local advocacy group worked through the years to get the project completed, Bessette said. It completed community surveys, formed work groups to remove and replace fencing as sections of the roadway were paved, and served as liaisons between the County Commission and area residents.
The $5 million paving project, paid for by the state, was the county's top priority, behind the paving of Beaver Creek Road, Bessette said. St. Joe Road is also known as Montana Secondary 233 and ends at the Port of Willow Creek.
Montana Department of Transportation engineering technician Beth Doran said the winning bid for the project was $5.04 million. She did not know the final project cost.
The completion of the project will have an economic impact on Havre, Bessette said. Some farmers near the border didn't drive to Havre for supplies because the road was in such poor condition, she said. Now they'll be more inclined to drive here.
Hill County Commissioner Doug Kaercher said MDT upgraded the roadway by improving shoulders and making some turns safer.
Local historian Gary Wilson said he hopes the paved road will increase interest in the Old Forts Trail. The road runs parallel to a section of the trail that connects Fort Assinniboine with Fort Walsh on the Canadian side. The pavement also will make traveling easier for youth hockey teams that cross the border, he said.
“It's not only great for the people that live up there, but also for those that cross the border,” Wilson said.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection area port director Larry Overcast said a facility at the Port of Willow Creek that opened in May 2004 will be able to handle any increased traffic the paved road may bring. It replaced a building that was at least 40 years old, he said.
Bessette and Kaercher both said the paving project has been a long time coming, and they are happy to see its completion.