Zimmerman Trail, Bench connector on list of proposed projects

2014-04-15T16:30:00Z 2014-04-16T06:58:04Z Zimmerman Trail, Bench connector on list of proposed projectsBy MIKE FERGUSON mferguson@billingsgazette.com The Billings Gazette

Transportation and elected officials from the local to the federal level gathered at the Yellowstone County Courthouse during the lunch hour Tuesday to discuss upcoming transportation projects in and around Billings.

Like the pizza chain promises, even with their hands full of pizza slices, the Policy Coordinating Committee delivered its entire meeting in 30 minutes or less.

The committee, made up of city and county planners and elected officials, meets monthly to discuss and, sometimes, vote on proposed projects. The committee then forwards its decisions to state and federal transportation officials for consideration.

On Tuesday, the committee heard from Montana Department of Transportation officials Stefan Streeter and Gary Neville. Streeter is the Billings-based district administrator; Neville is the district’s preconstruction engineer.

No decisions were made. Among the upcoming projects are:

-- The proposed Bench Boulevard connector. Streeter said the proposed Billings Bypass and the Inner Belt Loop mean “the project probably doesn’t have to be built. Our most recent studies indicate there’s probably not the necessity to do it anytime in the near future.” Billings City Council member Denis Pitman, substituting for Mayor Tom Hanel as committee chairman, said he’d bring the matter before his fellow city council members.

-- The comment period on the Billings Bypass project, which will connect Interstate 90 with Old Highway 312, will end April 28. After all the comments have processed, the project’s preferred alternative will come from the Federal Highway Administration, probably in mid-June, Neville said. By summer’s end, consultants will probably be on board to design the project, the first phase of which will take three to five years to construct. There’s enough money in place to pay for the initial phase, which includes design, right-of-way purchase and construction of two lanes. Pitman asked MDT officials to place a computer-generated flyover depicting the preferred route, called Mary Street Option 2, on the department’s website. “It’s an incredible way for people to get a perspective on what we are doing and where the road goes,” Pitman said.

-- Zimmerman Trail is still on track for rock stabilization, scaling (tumbling down loose rock), rock removal and stabilization following last month’s rock slide. By using an expedited process — speeding up the advertisement period for contractors and proactively contacting contractors with the expertise to deal with rock that still could fall — the project is still on track for a May 8 letting. With about two weeks of work, Zimmerman Trail could be reopened by late June or early July. “This has shown the city how critical even a small section of road can impact people and their livelihood,” Pitman said. “Your speeding up and helping us has been very helpful.”

-- MDT is pursuing improvements to Underpass Avenue around the Sixth Avenue West underpass. The initial work will involve fixing deteriorating concrete.

-- Intersection improvements at Airport Road and Main Street.

-- Milling and overlay on King Avenue West between South 20th Street West and South 24th St. West will proceed this spring.

Copyright 2014 The Billings Gazette. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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