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Completing construction of the new U.S. Highway 212/310 project from Laurel to Rockvale will be a priority among projects discussed Wednesday and Thursday during a meeting of Montana Department of Transportation officials in Helena.

The officials will discuss the next five years of roadway projects across the state during the meeting.

MDT district administrator for Billings Rod Nelson said that a few big projects are in the works for Billings. A stretch of highway from Laurel to Rockvale may be moving into its fourth phase of construction next year due to county officials asking MDT to prioritize its completion. The current plan is to complete the highway by 2022.

The newly constructed Hwy 212 has seen two fatal crashes in three months. 

"Public input is a huge factor in everything we do," Nelson said. "When we hear the public say, 'Hey, we want this done, and we want it done as soon as possible,' then we're going to do everything that we can in order to do that."

The 11-mile stretch underwent three phases of construction, which cost $40 million, but ran out of funds.

Portions of the passing lanes that have been built for the 11-mile stretch are paved. Those paved sections act as passing lanes, before merging back to a two-lane highway. There are three passing lane transitions in the 11 miles.

Phase four of construction will widen the entire stretch to four lanes, Nelson said, and is estimated to cost about $8 million. After hearing from the public, Nelson hopes phase four construction can start in 2020.

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About 87% of funding for these roadways comes from the federal level.

The Billings district will present its five-year proposal to the MDT Transportation Commission, where its members will be able to approve each district’s plan.

Nelson hopes the funds will come through, but acknowledges that things don't always work out.

“There’s nothing for certain about any of this. It’s always tentative, depending on what the federal government does,” Nelson said.

The meetings will also allow Nelson to update current projects in the Billings district. In mid-November, the district will start accepting bids on the first segment of the Billings Bypass, a project that aims to connect Billings’ Heights with Lockwood.

The district also plans to expand Interstate 90 between the 27th Street interchange and the Lockwood interchange right outside of Billings to three lanes in each direction, and replace the bridges over the Yellowstone River.

The Tentative Construction Plan meetings will take place on Oct. 23-24 in Helena at the Montana Department of Transportation Auditorium on Oct. 23 at 8:30 a.m. and at the Montana Department of Transportation Commission Room on Oct. 24 at 9 a.m. Meeting agendas can be found on the department’s website.

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