Billings City Council members Denis Pitman and Angela Cimmino joined other officials as they cut the ribbon on Skyway Drive, the first phase of the Inner Belt Loop that connects Wicks Lane, near Skyview High School, with Alkali Creek in the Billings Heights on Friday.

Crews have been working since November to build the first mile of the project, a six-mile-long road that will connect Wicks Lane to Zimmerman Trail.

By the end of January, most of the road had been cleared and formed from the Wicks end.

“The way this project was set up, there’s so much earthwork being done. We can do a lot of that during the winter,” Debi Meling, city of Billings engineer, said in January. “It’s been going on all winter.”

Meling said the ground near the creek, just a few dozen yards from the road, was so muddy that equipment placed on it would sink several feet into the ground.

“There was nothing hard anywhere in there,” she said. “It literally was soup. When we put something on it, it just sank.”

With a bridge over the creek set to go in, crews excavated down about 13 feet to address the problem. With a large pit dug out, they lined the bottom with rocks and boulders and covered them with a geotextile material before filling in the rest with dirt.

The creek, which was slightly diverted to accommodate construction, continues to run underneath the road.

The $2.1 million contract went to Riverside Contracting.

There is no construction schedule for the second, 5-mile-long phase of the loop. It is not included in the city’s current capital improvement plan, which runs through 2018, though the plan can always be amended by the City Council.

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