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Swamp Creek project delayed again

| July 15, 2005 12:00 AM

Long-awaited reconstruction of the Swamp Creek section of U.S. Highway 2 has run into another slight delay, a Montana Department of Transportation official told the Lincoln County Commissioners on Wednesday.

Five retaining walls have to be built along part of the highway from mile markers 45 to 57 to shore up soft soils. Dwane Kailey, acting district administrator, said that means a public meeting must be held in September to review the work.

The walls must be up to 200 meters long. The troublesome soil is located just south of an area where a "test berm" project to gather geotechnical information for the road reconstruction was conducted last summer.

The intent of the test was to minimize future maintenance after the road has been rebuilt.

Kailey told commissioners the Swamp Creek project, first discussed by the state in 1985, has been divided into three sections. Retaining walls are slated for what's known as Swamp Creek east, the design for which is scheduled to be completed by summer 2007.

A stretch of highway called Libby Creek-South is targeted for design completion next summer. Meanwhile, bids for Manicke-North, located between the two other segments, should be ready to go out for bids in December 2007, Kailey said.

He emphasized that MDOT is doing all it can to get reconstruction under way.

"We have made this a high priority project," Kailey said. "It's one of the highest priorities in the state. We are pushing like crazy to get it ready, and we are doing our best to get extra funding."

He noted that no projects on MDOT's schedule have had as many traffic fatalities as U.S. highways 2 and 93.

Commissioner Rita Windom said the highway system nationwide is falling into disrepair due to underfunding. It's worst in rural areas such as Lincoln County because there are fewer people to demand action, she said.

"It's catching up to us," Windom said.

Kailey said a bypass system has been approved for Kalispell, but it will be built through congressional appropriations or other special sources.

"The Kalispell bypass is not competing with Swamp Creek for funds," he said.