Proposed four-lane road along the Hi-Line from Idaho to North Dakota discussed
By Ron VandenBoom
A crowd of about 60 people turned out Friday to hear Sen.
Sam Kitzenberg, R-Glasgow, fill in the details on Senate
Bill 3, the proposed four-lane highway bill that would allow
for a new highway to be constructed along the Hi-Line from
the North Dakota border to Idaho.
The crowd of supporters of the bill listened to Kitzenberg
explain how the idea originated and gradually made its way
over hurdles to be passed out of committee with an 8-0 vote.
The bill was then easily passed by the Senate and according
to Kitzenberg will be brought to the floor of the House of
Representatives shortly after the legislature reconvenes at
5 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 28.
"I'm thinking it's going to go through fairly easy,"
Kitzenberg told the crowd. "But about the time you get too
confident the worst can happen."
Kitzenberg told everyone that the most important thing they
can do is to write letters or send e-mails to the 97, or so,
representatives that may not be as enthusiastic about the
project as they are.
People wishing to write can e-mail the representatives by
going to the Montana State Government website at
www.st.mt.us/index.htm, clicking on the legislature icon and
locating the list of representatives.
Kitzenberg said time is critical and the more letters and
e-mails they receive the better the chances the bill will
No funding is attached to the legislation, Kitzenberg told
the crowd, adding that he never expected to get any money
from the state budget for the project hoping instead that
funding could be received from the federal government and a
designation of the highway as a "trade corridor."
Funding for the project was never a major concern
Kitzenberg explained adding that the issue of money was just
one of several myths that surrounded the legislation early
on that scared people.
The projected cost of constructing more than 600 miles of
four-lane highway is $1.2 billion.
Another rumor Kitzenberg said started to circulate was that
money would be pulled from other road projects around the
state to be used on Highway 2.
A rumor also circulated that the highway to be built would
be an interstate highway that would bypass the little
communities along the way.
Kitzenberg reaffirmed that this was not the case and the
highway would not be an interstate and would pass through
communities, not bypass them.
Again Kitzenberg flatly denied any money would be
jeopardized in any other districts on Montana.
Kitzenberg told the crowd he sees a lot of potential for
the project's future thanks to Montana's Congressional
Sens. Max Baucus and Conrad Burns have both agreed to give
their support to the project, Kitzenberg said, noting that
if the people want it then Burns and Baucus will want it."
Rep. Dennis Rehberg, Montana's only representative, also
sits on the House Transportation Committee and has said that
he will support the project.
Kitzenberg told the crowd that he first heard about the
idea of a four-lane highway from his constituents and the
more he thought about it the more important the idea became.
After being elected he said he contacted the highway
department and was told, in essence, that the Hi-Line would
never get a four-lane highway because it didn't have enough
"I think my eyes got red when I heard we're never going to
get a four-lane highway," Kitzenberg said. "Do you mean to
say that we will always be condemned to dangerous roads just
because of where we live."
Kitzenberg said he continued to fight an up hill battle
talking to highway department people and to members of the
"You're not getting the point here," he told one
committeeman. "There's a lot of people involved here and we
need this for our economic survival."
Kitzenberg told the crowd that he has been impressed that
Minnesota can complete a four-lane road across their state
and North Dakota is about half finished with their project
across their state.
"And their interest in this project is super," he said.
"But it's easier when support