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Swamp Creek overlay to begin

| May 7, 2004 12:00 AM

By Brent Shrum, Western News Reporter

The Swamp Creek section of U.S. Highway 2 will be getting some attention this summer aimed at holding the road together until a reconstruction project tentatively scheduled for 2009 gets under way.

The 12-mile section between mile markers 45 and 57 will be getting a 2-inch overlay of asphalt. Work is scheduled to be completed by the end of June.

Also this summer, the Montana Department of Transportation plans to undertake a ³test berm² project to gather geotechnical information for the reconstruction project, said Dwane Kailey, an engineer at MDOT¹s Missoula district office.

³We¹re just real nervous as to how those soils are going to react when we do the project,² Kailey said.

Work is expected to start in July and end in August. The test berms will be monitored for six months to a year to see how they hold up, Kailey said. The intent of the test is to minimize future maintenance after the road has been rebuilt, he said.

The project to rebuild the Swamp Creek stretch of the highway was first discussed by the state in 1985. Design work was completed and the department was ready to start purchasing rights of way from local land owners in 1994, but a lack of funding put the project on hold for six years.

The project was dusted off in 2000, but the listing of bull trout under the federal Endangered Species Act and new standards for stream channels required the department to revise its plans. The department also had trouble coming to terms with a handful of property owners over the value of the rights of way.

Once the right of way problem was resolved, the department had hoped to be able to start work this year. But geotechnical concerns again delayed the project, bumping the projected start date back to 2005.

Last November, the state Transportation Commission postponed the project until 2009. Funding for the approximately $20 million job will instead be used for projects on U.S. Highway 93.

In February, about 45 community members traveled to Helena to voice their concerns to the Transportation Commission.

Lincoln County Commissioner Rita Windom presented the commission with 200 letters from county residents concerned about the highway, and Libby Mayor Tony Berget presented photographs showing the deterioration of the four bridges in the Swamp Creek area that date to 1936. Sheriff Daryl Anderson called the road ³unsafe for all motorists,² and area residents recounted numerous accidents and close calls on the stretch of highway.

State bridge inspectors are scheduled to tour the project on Tuesday, May 11.