By Ron VandenBoom
Sen. Sam Kitzenberg, the Glasgow Republican who recently spearheaded legislation to convert Highway 2 into four lanes, raised $2,400 Monday during a stopover in Havre. An earlier stop in Malta raised another $1,000 toward a goal of $10,000.
Kitzenberg, who stood before a crowd of about 50 supporters Monday holding a license plate that read "4 for 2," told his supporters that the funds raised will be used to help revive the old Highway 2 Association. The association, which has not been active for a number of years, is the vehicle through which Kitzenberg hopes to organize continued support for the highway project. He also needs the public's help in applying pressure on Montana's congressional delegation to fight for the estimated $1.2 billion in federal funding needed to complete the project.
Kitzenberg has scheduled additional meetings in Cut Bank today, Chinook on Wednesday, and Shelby on Thursday.
"There's no doubt in my mind that this four-lain highway is going to become a reality," he told the crowd. "We're on a roll right now."
Kitzenberg unveiled a four-part plan that he said is vital in keeping the ball rolling.
The first point of the plan involves raising at least $10,000 to promote what has become known as the 4 for 2 Highway Project. The money will be used for signs, printing costs and basic travel. Kitzenberg said receipts will be issued for all donations, and the financial records of the organization will be open for public inspection.
The second point in the plan is to call meetings. Kitzenberg has already planned the first meeting for July Fourth at the fairgrounds in Glasgow. The meeting is scheduled to start at 4 p.m. and include the election of officers. A barbecue is set for 5 p.m. with a dance and fireworks to follow. Future meetings at different locations along the Hi-Line will be arranged during the meeting, Kitzenberg said.
The third point is the signs, Kitzenberg said.
"One of the things I have learned working on the Fort Peck Hatchery is that signs work," he said.
Kitzenberg said he is not going to quit traveling until he has at least 50 locations for signs. He would like to get 100 all along Route 2.
He received 12 sign locations at Monday's meeting.
The fourth point of the plan is e-mail, letters, and calls to Montana's congressional delegation.
Kitzenberg said that while he is pleased with the support the congressional delegation has given the project so far, more support is needed and he encouraged the crowd to keep the pressure on.
Sen. Max Baucus on April 1 submitted a request to the Senate Appropriations subcommittee on transportation to fund $26 million to begin construction.
Kitzenberg said he does not want the project to become partisan, adding that he needs Democrat Baucus and the delegation's Republican members, Sen. Conrad Burns and Rep. Denny Rehberg, all working together to get the job accomplished.
Kitzenberg also stressed that the project is not going to be an interstate highway.
"Interstates starve communities and four-lane highways enhance them," he said.
Kitzenberg noted that in some cases travelers might be forced to slow down and go to two lanes through some communities along the Hi-Line, but he said, "Nobody wants an interstate and we're not going to do an interstate."
Much praise was bestowed on Havre and the media during the 45-minute speech. Kitzenberg referred to Havre as the Gettysburg Battlefield of 4 for 2. He noted that Havre had already won several skirmishes in the war.
He said it was the support of the people of Havre and their letters and e-mails that had a decided difference on the passage of 4 for 2.
Kitzenberg said he was hopeful that construction could begin within the next 10 years, rather than the 20 originally predicted, and also suggested that the Havre area would be a good place for construction to begin.
He reasoned that people on either side of the construction would then be able to see the benefit of a four-lane highway.
Anyone wanting to become a member of the Highway 2 Association should send $100 per membership to the Highway 2 Association, Drawer 751, CHMS c/o Dick Wiens, Glasgow, 59230.