County receives roadwork update

| August 4, 2020 8:07 AM

The Lincoln County Board of Commissioners received an update on the status of road projects within the county from the Montana Department of Transportation on July 29.

The annual check-in with the department’s Missoula District took the form of a conference call this year during a commissioner meeting.

Construction Engineer John Schmidt told commissioners the department had completed rehabilitation work on the steel bridge a little more than 10 miles north of Troy on U.S. Highway. 2. The aim of the project was reducing corrosion.

On Pipe Creek Road, Project Engineer Ben Nunnallee said the department is planning to widen the shoulder and flatten the slope along a stretch to address what they call a “crash cluster.” He expected the project to receive funding in the next two years.

On state Highway 56, south of Troy, Nunnallee said the department has planned a chip seal project. The work involves spraying a film of heated asphalt over the road and placing coarse-grained material, or chips, on top. Work is set to begin next year.

A bridge preservation project on state Highway 37, between Libby and Eureka, is in the first of two phases, according to Nunnallee. Engineers are assessing 11 bridges along a 64-mile stretch of the road.

The department will set a construction schedule by November. While the effort is set to receive funding in 2024, Nunnallee said the date might change depending on the construction schedule.

Also on state Highway 37, approximately 10 miles north of Libby, the department is extending a guardrail on the side of the roadway closest to the river to address a crash cluster. Construction should begin next year, according to Nunnallee.

Repairs on a stretch of state Highway 37 about three miles south of Eureka were completed last season, according to Justun Juelfs, the department maintenance chief in Kalispell. Another portion of the highway, which passes through Rexford, is slated for maintenance. That work should begin in August. Further south on the route, however, Juelfs said repair work is done on a reactive basis.

“What can we do to get that beyond reactive maintenance?” Commissioner Josh Letcher (D-3) asked the department representatives. “It’s the only through route from north Lincoln County to south Lincoln County and as far as inner county commerce, it really deters people from shopping in the south or traveling to the south.”

While Bob Vosen, the department administrator for the Missoula District, admitted the road was in need of repairs, he said the department did not have the resources to address it.

“We’re really struggling with some funding constraints,” Vosen told commissioners.

County Commissioner Jerry Bennett (D-2) asked about lengths of guardrail put up around Second Street and near Parmenter Hill. Bennett said the state had put in the guardrails without the county’s knowledge. The guardrail along Second Street blocks an access gate the county uses for flood emergencies and the length of guardrail along Parmenter Hill inadvertently restricts the driving lane.

State officials said they would work on coordinating more closely with the county on future projects.

At the Slauson Cutoff, a railroad crossing less than a mile north of Libby, the department is planning to improve the road surface and crossing signals. Before the project can progress further, the department is waiting on an agreement between the county and BNSF. Bennett said the paperwork had been sent three years ago.

On U.S. Highway 2, approximately three miles south of Libby, the department is planning a curve safety project, which will involve shoulder widening and slope flattening. Nunnallee anticipates the project will be underway in 2022.

Schmidt reported that a roadway-surfacing project and an overlay project on U.S. Highway 2 were complete. The roadway surfacing site was a five-mile stretch starting approximately 15 miles south of Libby. The overlay project covered a three-mile stretch of the highway starting approximately 33 miles south of Libby.

Nunnallee told commissioners about a district-wide center line rumble strip project, which will include construction on roads in Lincoln County. The project involves putting a series of indented patterns down the middle of select routes to alert inattentive drivers who drift out of their lane.

In Lincoln County, sections of U.S. Highway 93, state Highway 37, state Highway 56 and a large portion of U.S. Highway 2 are included in the project.