By Alan Sorensen
It looked for a time that the North Joplin Road was about to lose its promised status as a state secondary highway.
Also known as Montana Secondary 224, the paved two-lane highway heads directly north from Joplin and meets up at assorted junctions with roads that head east and west and then lead back south to Inverness and Chester. The road comes back into Hill County from Liberty County about half a dozen times, Tempel said.
Liberty County Commissioner Russ Tempel said in September that the state was considering denying the secondary status to the road that commissioners thought was promised with passage of Montana Senate Bill 333.
"They basically told us that it didn't meet the criteria," Tempel said.
The commissioners held a scheduled meeting with Montana Department of Transportation highway officials on Nov. 5. State negotiators, including Director of MDT Marvin Dye, John Blacker, head of highway maintenance for the state, and Mick Johnson of the Great Falls Division, and the commissioners, including Tempel, Pete Woods and Loyd Boyer, were able to hammer out what appears to be a workable compromise. Tempel said that Dye told the group that "we will make this work."
Tempel said he wanted to thank Montana Sen. John Tester, Rep. John Witt and Rep. Ray Peck who all attended the November meeting and contributed to the county's case.
Tempel said the agreement was reached, but that Liberty County has yet to receive the agreement in writing from the state.
"We shoulder the road, they buy the culverts, we put them in, and then they come in and surface the road over the next two years," Tempel said. "We have to go out 27 feet on a 3-to-1 slope (for the shoulder)."
Tempel said the state would then put down a 15/100 lift (just short of two inches) of asphalt to a width of 24 feet.
The way it's set up, he said, the state will pave it as Liberty County gets it shouldered. The state would do the southern portion of the road the first year and the north half the second year.
The projects are expected to begin in the summer of 2000 and be completed by January 2002.
"Number one, I don't think we have the money to do it all in one year."
Tempel said the first part of the paving would be done at the same time the state is resurfacing U.S. Highway 2 from Inverness to Chester. The following summer, the state will resurface U.S. 2 from Chester to Lothair.
"They'll have the hot plant set up and do the north end that year," Tempel said.
Highway 223 south from Chester to Fort Benton does meet all of the state's qualifications, Tempel said.