Char-Koosta News: U.S. 93 Ronan-North Project to break ground this spring
By: Bernie Azure
The Montana Department of Transportation (MDT) will be hosting a virtual open house next week to inform the public about the status of the 1.7-mile U.S. Highway 93 Urban North project.
The open house will consist of two identical virtual presentations Nov. 15-16. The first is from noon to 5 to 6 p.m. Monday, Nov. 15. The second will take place from noon to 1 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 16. Email Laura.Langdon@kljeng.com or call 406-594-5775 to RSVP.
The Ronan-North Project begins at the intersection of US 93 and Round Butte Road and extends north to connect to the existing four-lane section north of Spring Creek Road/Baptiste Road.
The proposed work includes: widening the highway to four lanes; a new shared-use path that connects with the existing path to Pablo; the realignment of Third Avenue and Old Hwy 93 into one intersection with a traffic signal, and a closure of the Spring Creek Road-U.S. 93 intersection.
It will link that portion to the Ronan-Urban section of the project that will result in a split Highway 93 couplet similar to the Arlee couplet with the southbound lane that skirts the town.
The other portion of the Ronan area U.S. 93 reconstruction project is Ronan-Urban Project that connects with the Ronan-North Project and Round Butte Road. It begins at Brooke Lane and widens the existing road to 3 or 4 lanes, with a center turn lane. In the town of Ronan, US 93 will be changed to a one-way couplet with northbound travel continuing on the existing US 93 and southbound travel moving to 1st Avenue SW which will be reconstructed. Traffic signals will be installed at Eisenhower and Buchanan Streets and at Round Butte Road for both directions of travel. Sidewalk connections will be maintained through town and will connect to pathways to the south and north of the project.
It has been 15 years since the existing four-lane section of Highway 93 from north of Ronan to Polson was completed.
There are two other sections of the U.S. 93 corridor reconstruction project from Evaro to Polson that remain to be completed. One is 3.3-mile North-Post Creek Hill section that begins at the U.S. 93 intersection with Dublin Gulch/Red Horn roads to the top of Post Creek Hill. The other is the 4.4-mile Ninepipes segment that begins at the crest of Post Creek Hill and extends north to hook up with the Ronan-Urban project at Brook Lane.
The two sections are the most challenging of the Highway 93 reconstruction project; both are environmentally sensitive areas.
The North-Post Creek Hill section contains numerous artesian springs that can mush up the soils, and it is a major grizzly bear corridor that has resulted in many bear-vehicle collisions that have resulted in numerous bear deaths. The reconstruction project in that section would have to be designed with that in mind.
The Ninepipes section is a wetlands area and that creates similar wildlife concerns that includes amphibians. It has been discussed before to have portions of the highway elevated on pilings.
Those two sections could be very expensive to construct and surely would be with the ever-rising costs and availability of needed construction materials.
The Montana Department of Transportation (MDT) funds projects on five-year fiscal windows, and proposed projects are funded depending upon rating criteria and available funds.
However, a ray of funding light has recently lit up with the passing of President Biden's $1.2 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA)). Of that $2.8 billion would be allocated to MDT for highway projects, and an additional $225 million for bridge projects.
U.S. Senator Jon Tester (D-Mont) has been a major player - he sponsored the bill in the Senate -in the promotion and passage of the IIJA as a member of a bipartisan 10-member group of senators - five Democrats and Five Republicans.
"Today a large, bipartisan majority of the Senate voted overwhelmingly to pass my historic legislation that will make critical infrastructure investments in Montana and across the country. I worked with Republicans and Democrats to negotiate this package because Montanans have lived off our grandparents' infrastructure for decades, hurting our ability to grow our economy," Sen. Tester said in a press release Friday. "This package will create jobs and help us maintain our competitive edge over China by making once-in-a-generation investments in our state's roads, bridges, airports, water systems, and high-speed internet-all without raising taxes. This is what Montanans expect from their elected leaders-that we work across the aisle to deliver real, lasting solutions that'll have a positive impact on everyone who lives in the Last Best Place, and I'm going to keep working until we get this bill signed into law."
The Senate voted 69-30 to pass the bill with bipartisan support. Montana will receive more than $3 billion to be used on various and numerous infrastructure projects.
The two other members of the Montana Congressional delegation - Republicans Sen. Steve Daines and Rep. Matt Rosendale - voted against the bill.
The investment of $2.8 billion for roads and $225 million for bridges in all likelihood could result in the completion of the remaining sections of the Highway 93 reconstruction project on the Flathead Reservation.
The open house will serve as a key opportunity to have a conversation about the upcoming work and answer questions from the community.
- Comments on the proposed project may be submitted online at www.mdt.mt.gov/mdt/comment_forms.shtml or in writing to Montana Department of Transportation, Missoula office at P.O. Box 7039, Missoula, MT 59807-7039. Please note that comments are for project UPN 1744019.
- The public is encouraged to contact Missoula District Administrator Bob Vosen at 406-523-5802 or Project Design Engineer Miki Lloyd at 406-444-9200.