Tim Leeds Havre Daily News email@example.com
A new piece of legislation pushing to widen U.S. Highway 2 to four lanes across Montana was scheduled for a hearing in a legislative committee today. Sen. Ken “Kim” Hansen, D-Harlem, proposed legislation to remove some stipulations on a bill passed by the 2001 legislature restricting the funding for widening Highway 2. “Basically, all we’re asking for is to keep us on the same page as every other highway in the state,” Hanson said in an interview Wednesday. Sen. Sam Kitzenberg of Glasgow proposed the first bill in 2001, which directed the state Department of Transportation to widen U.S. Highway 2 to four lanes across the state. In negotiations with other legislators and the state highway department, that bill was amended to include the stipulation that state funds could not be used in projects to widen the highway, instead unmatched federal funds had to be appropriated to do so. The amendments also included a stipulation that funding for projects to widen U.S. Highway 2 to four lanes could not jeopardize any future Montana highway projects. Hansen’s bill would eliminate those requirements, which, he points out, is not required in any other projects in the state including widening highways to four lanes. “We just want equal footing, that’s all that this is,” Hansen said. Hansen added that he doesn’t know what to expect from the hearing on the bill today. He does not believe that many legislators are very receptive to the idea of widening Highway 2, he said. The push to widen Highway 2 recently received its first major success, when last fall a project to widen the highway to four lanes from the North Dakota border to Culbertson received federal approval. The first proposed project to study widening the highway from Havre to Fort Belknap did not approve a four-lane configuration. Instead, the project has been approved to build a wider two-lane highway with wider shoulders and intermittent passing and turning lanes.