By Francis Bardanouve
It seems I am out of the main stream in the matter of a four lane highway across northern Montana. I fear it is not a wise concept at the present time. Possibly many years in the future, it might be a wiser project if Montana becomes a much more populated and industrialized state.
I see many problems with this proposal. Probably the most serious is the hundreds and possibly thousands of millions of dollars it will cost in construction and later the millions of dollars additional costs of maintenance every year. Of course, many will say it is just mostly federal dollars. I guess I am kind of strange, I feel they are tax dollars. It seems Montanans are being taught to hate the federal government and yet we suck up federal dollars like a giant vacuum cleaner and scream forever more. I fear this would be the biggest boondoggle of all.
Have you paused to think of the tremendous cost just in this local area alone? A very expensive bridge west of Dodson, another one by Fort Belknap, yet another one east of Chinook, where we have just built one at great cost, and one more west of Chinook. Many millions of dollars in a fairly short area for bridges alone.
We would probably have to move Milk River at Zurich, no sweat, just a big chunk of more federal dollars!
Another factor to consider, four lane highways are not designed to serve local businesses but to expedite traffic quicker from point A to point B. They are basically designed to get traffic by towns like Harlem and Chinook.
In order to get a four lane past Chinook, you would have to probably destroy the entire Chinook businesses along the present highway or possibly bypass Chinook entirely.
If it does go through Chinook, how will you gain access for all the streets that enter the present highway? You just don't access four lanes like two lanes. Also, there is the possibility of more accidents crossing four lanes.
How about the problem of all the county roads that enter or cross the present highway? I believe, in all cases, four lane highways have strict access and regulations. Federal regulations will prevail. Another problem - what happens to farmers access when they have property along the right of way?
I fear with four lanes, you just can't drive farm machinery on it at any point you desire.
Will it be like on the present interstate, another road is built alongside of the highway and local traffic will travel on that and can only enter the four lane at limited points? Four lanes would mean elimination of farmsteads that borders the present highway. For example, just west of Harlem, the farmsteads of the Cowell, Kulbeck and Greens sites would be history. I have mentioned high costs in this area, but pause to think what the costs will be when you reach the mountains in the Glacier Park area. It blows my mind what this construction would cost. Well into the hundreds of millions, requiring years to complete.
In the legislature, when a project is proposed, I would ask myself, if it benefited a local area, would it overall benefit Montana? Possibly it could benefit northern Montana, but it would probably divert traffic from the interstate in southern Montana, thus reducing economic benefits to that area. This results in little net gain for Montana at a tremendous cost.
One of the chief complaints about building the interstate across the Yellowstone Valley was the great loss of some of the most productive agricultural land in Montana. This proposed four lanes would cause the same loss in the most productive land in northern Montana the Milk River Valley. Many a bale of hay will never again be produced!
Probably the most costly boondoggle in modern times was forcing the interstate highway into the city of Butte. Butte has always said, What benefits Butte, benefits Montana,' which I never completely agreed with. The highway should have been built into White Hall rather than through the rugged mountains to Butte.
However, Butte wanted the "economic benefits" of the interstate. Through years of political manipulations, Butte finally secured the interstate. The hundreds of millions of additional dollars this cost did not overall benefit Montana at all. Do we want to be another Butte?
I know this letter, if published, will not make any friends for me, but I have tried to review this proposal and have look at many of its aspects.