Major changes to make U.S. Highway 212 from Rockvale to Laurel safer are coming soon, with construction of an overpass at the railroad tracks south of Laurel to begin this fall.
Montana Department of Transportation officials and DOWL HKM contract engineers updated nearly 100 people on the Highway 212 reconstruction project during an informational meeting Wednesday night at Laurel High School.
“This project is driven by safety,” said Stefan Streeter, MDT’s Billings district administrator, noting that the two-lane stretch of highway has had a number of fatal accidents over the years.
Officials gave an overview and status of the four-phase project and encouraged comments. The deadline for commenting is June 24.
“This is an important project for the whole region. It’s really all about safety,” said John Shoff, project manager with DOWL HKM, which is designing the project.
The project, estimated to cost $49.6 million, calls for reconstructing 11.6 miles of Highway 212 by building a widened four-lane divided highway and constructing new bridges over the railroad tracks, Shoff said.
The route, known as the Combined Bench West, was identified through an environmental analysis and a record of decision in 2009. The goal is to improve safety, accommodate growing traffic volumes and provide access for local roadways and land use.
The first phase, which is expected to begin construction in the fall, is the South of Laurel — Railroad Overpass section. The mile-long segment will run from about Krug Lane to Thiel Road and will include a four-lane divided highway and overpass near the current railroad underpass.
The project is expected to go to bid in August and is estimated to cost $16.5 million, Shoff said. There will be a detour on paved roads during construction.
The second phase, called Rockvale North, will reconstruct the intersection of Highways 212 and 310 at Rockvale to include four lanes, divided medians, flashing beacons and lighting. Design work is done, with right-of-way acquisition beginning, Shoff said. Construction bids are expected to be let in the spring of 2014. The estimated cost is $6.8 million.
The third phase is a 10-mile stretch that will connect Rockvale to Laurel along the bench west of the existing highway. Design has begun but right-of-way acquisition had not yet started, Shoff said. Plans calls for a mix of four-, three- and two-lane roads. The estimated construction cost is $24.2 million, with bids to be let in 2015 or later, depending on funding, he said.
The fourth segment, which has not yet been contracted for design, would build out the Rockvale-to-Laurel segment to four lanes, Shoff said. That phase is slated “for 2016 or beyond,” he said.
The public may submit comments to Stefan Streeter at the Billings District Office, P.O. Box 20437, Billings, MT 59104-0437; John Shoff, project manager, DOWL HKM, 222 N. 32nd St., Suite 700, Billings, MT 59101; or online at www.mdt.mt.gov/pubinvolve/rockvale.