Citing dissatisfaction with what he called delays by the Montana Department of Transportation, the president of the Highway 2 Association said his group will withdraw its request to reconsider widening U.S. Highway 2 east of Havre to a four-lane highway. “We have simply run out of time,” Bob Sivertsen said in a press release. “MDT has stalled us out, and with construction slated for this summer there is not time to do the revisit without delaying the project. “We are acting on behalf of the people as they don’t want anymore delays,” Sivertsen added. MDT Director Jim Lynch said this morning he was working on arranging a meeting for local officials Thursday, April 19, to provide them information on the impact of revisiting the environmental impact statement issued in 2004. The EIS found the best alternative to be an improved two-lane road, with wider lanes and shoulders and intermittent passing and turning lanes. He added that he had not received word from Sivertsen by this morning that the request to revisit the project was withdrawn. After Sen. Ken “Kim” Hansen, D-Harlem, successfully pushed through legislation last year removing some restrictions from a bill directing MDT to widen the highway to four lanes, Sivertsen revived his effort to have the project looked at again. Lynch said he told local officials and residents at a meeting in January that Revisiting the EIS would delay the Havre east project, the first phase of which is set to start this summer. He said the decision to revisit the EIS could have been made right up to the time the bids were set to go out, as he told the people at January’s meeting. Lynch and Gov. Brian Schweitzer have pushed forward with widening the highway. A section from North Dakota, which already has expanded the highway to four lanes across the state, to Culbertson is being widened to a four-lane highway. That project, part of the highpriority projects to improve the Theodore Roosevelt Expressway, already is under way. Lynch said the decision was made by MDT and the local groups and governments in 2006 to push forward with widening the highway in sections from North Dakota west, and to continue with projects already in the books for Highway 2, including the Havre East project. Lynch said this morning he will contact the representatives of local city and county governments to see if they wish to proceed with the meeting and consider revisiting the EIS, or if that should be scrapped. The Havre to Fort Belknap project was the first considered after the Montana Legislature in 2001 passed a law requiring the transportation department to widen U.S. Highway 2 to four lanes across the state. In negotiations to pass the law, Senate Bill 3, sponsor Sam Kitzenberg, a state senator from Glasgow, agreed to amendments including at the request of thentransportation Director Dave Galt. Those amendments required the projects to be funded only with federal money earmarked for the projects, and that they not jeopardize any other state highway projects. After a two-year process preparing the EIS on the potential impacts of widening the highway from Havre to Fort Belknap, both the federal and state departments of transportation in 2004 recommended the improved two-lane configuration. The departments cited the study’s findings that widening the highway to four lanes would not significantly improve traffic or the local economy in their decisions. Sivertsen and others said Gov. Judy Martz and Galt had set the project up to fail in creating a four-lane highway. He said in his release that the 2004 election of Schweitzer, a supporter of 4 for 2, breathed new life in the project. But, he said, delays in his request to revisit the EIS, which he said he first made in 2006, have slowed it back down. “We have now come to realize that not much has changed in MDT,” Sivertsen said.
Highway 2 Association yields on 4-lane plan
Move seems to clear the way for 2-lane work
Published: Tuesday, April 6th, 2010
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