Havre Daily News
The Montana Department of Transportation's plan of attack for the First Street reconstruction project got a once-over Monday as planners sat down with city and county officials and local business representatives.
"We don't want to put someone out of business," MDT consultant Blair Nord-hagen said at the opening of the meeting as he asked local officials to review the plans and point out trouble spots.
McDonald's, Taco Time, Title Cash, Havre Distributors and Arctic Circle were the businesses that received the most attention as Nordhagen asked for suggestions on how to satisfy each business' needs.
MDT planners have said the reconstruction project will be the biggest ever executed in the state. The roughly $20 million reconstruction, set to begin in the summer of 2006 or spring of 2007 and last two construction seasons, will rebuild the road and replace all curbs and sidewalks from Ninth Avenue West to 22nd Avenue east of town. The project also includes a complete overhaul of the First Street drainage system, which drains most of Havre's runoff into the Milk River. The project includes beautification of Havre's main artery, with landscaping and period lighting.
All this will come at a price in the short term.
"I think people realize this is not going to be ideal," Havre Mayor Bob Rice told the group Monday as they tried to work out solutions to the biggest problems.
The project is being executed without detours, according to the wishes expressed by community members at a meeting a year ago. Instead, First Street will be split in half, length-wise, and work will progress in two phases. All traffic, both eastbound and westbound, will be diverted to the half that's open, while work proceeds on the opposing half.
According to the plan, at least one access point will be maintained for each business at all times, and the main access will not be blocked for more than 60 days.
For the most part, businesses located on the south side of the street have access from the back or from adjoining businesses that have back access, planners said.
In some cases, officials suggested that small walls or fences could be removed temporarily to provide more access between businesses.
On the north side of the street, MDT is working on an agreement with BNSF Railway to allow businesses access to railroad right of ways, though in some cases only for deliveries.
In the case of McDonald's, which has no back access, planners suggested that as the curb and storm drain near the business entrance is replaced, extra curb might be removed to keep access to the parking lot from the front. Also, access from the side might be available.
Taco Time would also have limited access, but Rice said that since the same family owns Canton Restaurant, the two businesses might be able to share an entrance.
Rice also conveyed the concern of Title Cash's owner that access to his business might be completely cut off.
Engineering firm Morrison Maierle Inc. vice president Brad Peterson said at least one access point would be kept open for that and all businesses.
Havre Distributors also needs to maintain access for deliveries, local offiicals said.
Finally, Rice suggested that a wall between Arctic Circle and 4B's could be temporarily removed, allowing the two businesses to share a back access.
Concerned business owners can contact the Great Falls MDT district office and ask for Stephen Prinzing or Mick Johnson at (406) 454-5880.