Plans solidify for First Street reconstruction


The findings of a study to determine how First Street in Havre will look down the road closely matches the design backed by many downtown business owners.

"The public told us what they wanted and in this study the result is almost identical to what they told us," Mick Johnson, Great Falls district administrator for the Montana Department of Transportation, said today.

Johnson said Thursday at a meeting in Havre that a major component of the project - about $5.5 million of it - will be finding a solution to the water drainage problem the entire city experiences during heavy storms or snowmelt.

MDT will rebuild U.S. Highway 2, which is called First Street when it passes through Havre, from Ninth Avenue West near the city water treatment plant to 24th Avenue East, near the old Kmart building. Preliminary work is likely to start in 2005, with the main construction beginning in the spring of 2006, Johnson said.

The street in its current route was first built in 1952, and has not had major repairs since 1979.

MDT and Morrison-Maierle Inc., the firm conducting the study, have held several public meetings to find out what people want when the highway is rebuilt, and presented their findings at a meeting at the Montana State University-Northern Student Union Building Thursday night. About 20 people attended.

A major fear downtown business owners raised at earlier meetings - loss of on-street parking - was quelled Thursday. John Pavsek of Morrison-Maierle said the parking around Second and Third avenues and on downtown streets to the west, will not change.

The configuration of the street from Fifth Avenue to the western edge of the project will remain the same as it is now. Pavsek said that section of the highway already handles traffic well and will continue to do so.

Janine Donoven, owner of J.M.. Donoven Designs in Fine Jewelry, said MDT and the consultants have listened to the comments of people and seem to have come up with a plan that solves problems in the best possible way.

"I'm impressed that we're only losing a few parking spaces in the downtown business sector," she said. "That makes me very happy."

MDT resurfaced the street from Montana Avenue to the west edge of town in 2000, and built a center turning lane the length of the project at that time. That required eliminating on-street parking. That configuration also will remain the same, Johnson said today.

MDT will make some changes from Fifth Avenue to the east. A center turning lane will be created from Fifth Avenue through 12th Avenue, which will eliminate five existing parking spaces on the north side of First Street between Fifth and Seventh avenues, and eliminate all parking on the south side of the street from Seventh to 12th avenues.

Pavsek said the parking study done for the project showed that the spaces that will be eliminated are not used much.

The configuration from 12th to 24th avenues will remain the same, four lanes with a center turning lane.


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