By Tim Leeds/Havre Daily Newsemail@example.com
The new director of the Montana Department of Transportation said he is working to find ways to widen U.S. Highway 2 to four lanes across the state, despite opposing a Senate bill that would prohibit any work on Highway 2 unless it would install four lanes.
"I have been investigating 4 for 2, where we are today and what we can do to get the highway back on track for a four-lane," Lynch said Thursday.
He said he is looking for ways to change a decision by the Federal Highway Administration to install two lanes with passing and turning lanes on a 45-mile stretch between Havre and Fort Belknap.
The decision was part of an environmental impact statement done for the project, the first resulting from a 2001 Senate bill directing MDT to build a four-lane Highway 2 using only federal funds. MDT and the FHWA both said the environmental impact statement did not show justification for spending an extra $20 million to $30 million to build a four-lane highway.
Lynch said he is trying to see if any other justifications for widening the section to a four-lane road can be found - "what was covered in the record of decision, what was missed, maybe what could happen in economic development in the region that wasn't considered."
Sarah Elliott, Gov. Brian Schweitzer's communications director, said today the governor supports widening the highway to four lanes, but deferred all questions to Lynch.
Sen. Sam Kitzenberg, R-Glasgow, author of the previous Highway 2 bill, has sponsored a new bill requiring that all work done on the highway must upgrade it to a four-lane configuration and dropping the requirement that only federal money can be used. The Senate Highways and Transportation Committee is scheduled to hear the bill Tuesday.
The requirement that only federal