By Tim Leeds
With work under way to decide the future of U.S. Highway 2, the Highway 2 Association is holding a meeting to gather information from people living near the highway and to share some information with them.
"There's some things we need to be on top of," Bob Sivertsen, president of the association, said Monday. "We need to make sure we know what the important facts are to bring out."
The meeting is Saturday in Shelby, starting at 1 p.m. at the Marias River Electric building.
The Montana Department of Transportation, after collecting comments from people in the area, submitted a proposal to the Federal Highway Administration to conduct an environmental impact statement on Highway 2 from Havre to its junction with State Highway 66 at Fort Belknap.
The EIS will determine whether plans to widen Highway 2 to a four-lane highway should go forward, depending on the cost and environmental and economic impacts. The 2001 Legislature passed a bill directing MDT to seek federal funding to widen Highway 2 to four lanes.
Douglas Gregory, construction engineer in the MDT Great Falls District Office, said today that his office is in the process of selecting a consultant to do the EIS. He said the consultant selected will submit a proposal, and depending on the cost and content of the proposal, MDT will accept it or go to the next consultant on the list.
Once the process begins, the consultant will contact people, governments, businesses and organizations along the section of Highway 2 to conduct the EIS.
Sivertsen said people need to show the consultant the economic drain that has happened along the Hi-Line in the last 30 years.
"We need to do a profile on each of the communities," he said, showing the population and businesses lost since the 1970s.
The goal of the association is to listen to what people have to say about the EIS and about widening the highway, and to let them know where the project is.
"It's very important people know what's happening," Sivertsen said. "Their thoughts and ideas are important. Together we can do it. Alone we can't."