Havre Daily News/Nikki Carlson
Vehicles drive on the new black top section of U.S. Highway 2 east of Havre Saturday afternoon.
The first part of an upgrade planned on U. S. Highway 2 east of Havre nearly is complete, with the second stage delayed for at least several years, Montana Department of Transportation officials said.
Work this year on an upgrade transforming the highway from a two-lane configuration based on outmoded standards starting near Pork Chop Hill, at Mile Marker 386, to about 10 miles east of Havre, is in the final stages, Great Falls MDT District Administrator Mick Johnson said last week.
Seeding in the worked ground on that project will be done this fall, Johnson said, with the final seal and cover and final striping on the section set for next year.
A planned project for connecting Havre to the newly covered section of highway still is in the planning stages. Johnson said once the plans are closer to completion, that project will be included in MDT’s future construction planning.
Work to recover the highway from the new construction to the Chinook area were complete last week, except for final striping of the highway, Johnson said.
The construction has caused some controversy over the last 10years. The Havre to Fort Belknap section of the highway was selected as the first section proposed to be upgraded to four lanes under a law passed by the Legislature in 2001.
The law directed MDT to widen U. S. Highway 2 to four lanes across Montana to increase economic opportunity and improve safety.
The environmental study required before conducting major highway work showed that the benefits to widening the highway from Havre to Fort Belknap to four lanes did not justify the expense and recommended an improved two-lane with wider lanes, shoulders and intermitent passing and turning lanes.
The section now being completed was designed to those specifications.
The section going from the edge of Havre to the start of the project, now close to completion, will be designed in a four-lane configuration, Johnson said.
MDT announced last year that plans on the three miles from Havre east to Pork Chop Hill were being upgraded and would be built with two lanes going each direction with a turning lane in the middle, the configuration the four-lane Highway 2 advocates are seeking.
Last year an MDT spokesperson said the project on that section of highway was expected to go out to bid in 2012. Johnson said last week that, depending on funding, that project may be delayed until 2015.