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Ground work begins on Havre East highway project

 

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To an improved two-lane configuration began in earnest this week, with heavy equipment moving dirt south of the road.

Lori Ryan, Montana Department of Transportation public information specialist, said the work that began Monday was to do some work south of the existing lanes and some shoulder work. While 35 mph zones will be used in the sections where work is being done, Ryan said no major delays are expected.

The construction has caused some controversy over the last eight or nine years. The Havre-to-Fort Belknap section of the highway was selected as the first section proposed to be upgraded to four lanes under a law passed by the Legislature in 2001.

The law directed MDT to widen U.S. Highway 2 to four lanes across Montana to increase economic opportunity and improve safety.

When a required environmental study showed that the benefits to widening the highway from Havre to Fort Belknap to four lanes did not justify the expense and recommended an improved two-lane with wider lanes, shoulders and intermittent passing and turning lanes, supporters of the fourlane configuration started calling for the study to be revisited.

The state has started its first fourlane project on Highway 2, widening the road from the North Dakota border to Culbertson.

As the Highway 2 improvements near Havre came closer to starting this summer, the opposition to the construction died off.

MDT has been working on planning And designing the project and acquiring rights of way in the last few years. Part of the proje c t inc l u d e s c onne c t ing Highway 2 to the road running to the new landfill being built just east of Havre.

The project was awarded to SK Construction of Missoula at the end of the bidding process earlier this summer. The budget for the project is just less than $12 million The work starting this summer is the first phase of the project to upgrade the section of the highway. The work will start at Pork Chop Hill just east of Havre and run slightly less than 7 miles east.

The next phase, to connect that work to Havre, is in the planning stages.

Ryan said the dirt work this summer and fall will move through different spots on the 7-mile section, with the 35 mph zones being moved to where work is being done.

The first dirt work is at Mile Marker 386, at Pork Chop Hill, to Mile Marker 388, and a few miles east at Mile Marker 391 to Mile Marker 393, Ryan said.

 
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