Senator Tester checks in on Custer Interchange stimulus project


by Marnee Banks

US Senator Jon Tester rolled through Helena on Tuesday to check on the status of the Custer Interchange Project.

He met with City Commissioners, Director of the Montana Department of Transportation, Airport officials, and the Helena Chamber of Commerce. He wanted to make sure the project was going smoothly.

The Custer Interchange project is funded through stimulus dollars and is one phase of a much larger traffic project in the Helena area.

D.O.T. is waiting for the utility work to wrap up before it starts taking bids on the project.

"We can Custer open through construction in the business sector, but there is a portion of this project from Sanders Street to Washington that would actually facilitate the movement of traffic in that area if we had a temporary closure of 90 days," D.O.T. Director Jim Lynch said.

The total cost of all phases of the project is between $40 and $45 million. The D.O.T. is ahead of schedule on getting it completed.

They figure the Custer Interchange construction will get underway sometime in Fall of 2011.

Senator Tester asked Director Lynch if all the stimulus money the D.O.T. has received has been obligated.

He told Montana's News Station there is talk in Washington D.C. of rescinding unobligated stimulus funds.

Lynch told Tester the D.O.T. has obligated about $190 million of the total $211 million it was given.

"I just wanted to make sure that the money for all the projects, especially this one was already firmly obligated. Don't know what is going to happen when we go back to Washington D.C., don't know what bill people are gonna come up with," Tester said.

Even though no specific legislation was mentioned, Tester says it could happen with Republicans having more control after the 2010 election.