By Ross Markman
Better traffic flow on Fifth Avenue and improved overall access, and the prospect of more subdivisions at the south end of the city near Havre High School are among the benefits of a road project slated for construction in late 2006.
The Montana Department of Transportation plans to build a street from the Fifth Avenue-South Dell Street intersection over to the south end of 12th Avenue. The project will then continue north, with improvements to 12th Avenue, to the intersection with Eighth Street, and will then extend east to the intersection of 14th Avenue.
In other words, residents and motorists east of 14th Avenue will have an easier link to the southern end of town. The project encompasses 2 miles of road, 1 of which would be newly constructed.
"The main purpose of this is to alleviate traffic from Fifth Avenue," said Dave Peterson, Havre's director of public works. "It's a road that could also be needed because we are getting more subdivisions out there."
Additional right of way is needed for the construction, but it shouldn't be difficult to obtain, Peterson said. Most of the land on the route running past the Human Resources Development Council's new offices and parallel to Bullhook Road is undeveloped.
The project, which could take 1.5 years to complete, is estimated to cost between $5 million and $5.5 million, according to Mick Johnson, Great Falls district administrator for MDT. It will be paid for with money allocated by the state for construction and repair of urban routes, which are well-traveled streets owned and maintained by the city.
Havre has about $2 million in its urban route fund. The remainder will be borrowed from the MDT, which loans money to cities unable to pay all at once, Johnson said.
"Based on a formula of population and road miles, each year Havre gets credited to their account about $250,000 for urban routes," Johnson said. "Once that gets to a certain level, we sit down with the city officials, and say, What do you want to do with that money?'"
The city, however, will have to dip into its coffers to pay for any utilities affected by the construction, Peterson said. The city, he said, will use a $500,000 Treasure State Endowment Program grant it received two years ago to offset the $1.2 estimated cost of installing new water mains. Sewer lines will likely cost an additional $500,000 to $750,000. That money will be raised from other sources like grants or city reserves, Peterson said.
The project, launched in 1998 by then Mayor Phyllis Leonard, was actually first proposed and designed in 1971 and was part of Havre's comprehensive plan. The intention then was to stretch the new road into Highland Park and ultimately link it with U.S. Highway 87.
With the current design, Peterson said, there are no plans to extend the road out to Highway 87 in the next 10 to 20 years.
The project, though, is only in its infant state.
The MDT will conduct a public meeting on April 18 at Havre City Hall to give residents a chance to speak their mind on the issue. Project designer Steve Prinzing of Great Falls-based Neil Consultants will attend.
Johnson expects a good turnout.
"We're asking the adjacent landowners and all of the people who live and work in Havre what they think is best for this street," he said. "We want to try and accommodate everything the public and the city want."