Tim Leeds Havre Daily News firstname.lastname@example.org
The Montana Department of Transportation plans to rebuild 10 miles of U.S. Highway 2 east of Havre to a modern, wider highway with sections of turning and passing lanes, starting within four or five years, MDT representatives said in a meeting in Havre Monday. Christie McOmber of MDT said that, aside from general repairs, most of the section of the highway is the same as it was when it was first built in 1946. “It’s definitely due for an upgrade,” she said. “ I t wi l l be a big improvement for safety.” The project was originally started in 1999, but was delayed while an environmental impact statement was written for the 45-mile stretch of the highway from Havre to Fort Belknap. The EIS, which was tied into a law directing MDT to seek federal funding to widen Highway 2 to four lanes across Montana, stated that the preferred alternative in the corridor was a wider, modern highway with passing and turning lanes where needed. McOmber said the project will start at 22nd Avenue, the end of the project in Havre to rebuild Highway 2 where it runs as First Street, and end a couple of miles east of the Hill County-Blaine County line, just short of Lohman. The project is being designed to provide a 40-foot-wide highway with eight-foot shoulders through most of the project, and wider and gentler slopes on each side of the shoulders. A bicycle and walking path is also planned for construction from 22nd Avenue to 38th Avenue. About a mile of passing lanes will be included in both the eastern and western lanes, with turning lanes also included in some areas. After several people attending the meeting said the project ends just short of one of the worst curves on the highway, near Lohman, McOmber said the engineers could look to see if there is a better stopping point. The plan is not set and can still be adjusted, she said. Part of the reason the project is set to stop where it is is the cost, she added. When the project was started in 1999, the estimated cost was about $9 million, which is typical for a highway project. Now the estimated cost is more than $21 million, and the work may need to be split into a group of smaller projects to allow companies to be able to bid on it and bond for them, she said. Once the design is closer to completion, members of the design team will be contacting property owners to discuss what is needed for approaches to their property and other issues, McOmber said. When the project is further along, they will also be contacted to discuss purchasing property to create a right-of-way for the project. The engineering staff expects to have the designs completed by 2010, with the project starting once funding becomes available, possibly 2011 or 2012, she said. Comments and concerns about the project can also be submitted in writing, with a deadline of Nov. 22. People should include the project number, CN 4951001, with any written comments. To submit a comment in writing, mail the comment to Steve Prinzing, Engineering Services supervisor, MDT, P. O. Box 1359, Great Falls, MT 59403, or online at www.mdt.mt.gov/mdt/ comment_form.shtml.