State considers widening chunk of Highway 93

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The Montana Department of Transportation is looking at making improvements to the section of U.S. Highway 93 West of Whitefish from reference post 133 to reference post 134, including the two curves between Twin Bridges Road and Beaver Lake Road. (Heidi Desch/Whitefish Pilot)

Safety improvements are driving a potential widening of a 1-mile stretch of U.S. Highway 93 west of Whitefish.

The Montana Department of Transportation is looking at making improvements to the section of highway from reference post 133 to reference post 134, including the two curves between Twin Bridges Road and Beaver Lake Road.

D.J. Berg, project manager with MDT, said that the department identified the section of road as having a trend for run-off-the-road crashes.

“This project is intended to widen and flatten the shoulders to give vehicles more time to recover before going off the road,” he said.

MDT held an open house on the project recently to gather input and it is taking comments on the project through April 20.

Berg said MDT looks at crash trends along roadways to determine areas that need improvements as a result of safety issues.

“The information is used to figure out where we can allocate projects throughout the state,” he said. “They keep an eye on the whole state to determine which projects to work on to help improve safety.”

Proposed work includes widening the roadway to include 4-foot shoulders, flattening side slopes, and guardrail.

Trevor Iman, engineer with WGM Group, said the preference for the design is to be able to widen the roadway, but in areas where that might not be possible then a guardrail will be added.

“When you’re looking at safety you want to eliminate a hazard first, them mitigate for it such as with a guardrail and then if you couldn’t do it with creating too much impact you do nothing,” Iman said. “But you want to do something because that’s the best for creating safety for travelers.”

The road currently sees about 3,500 vehicle trips per day on an annual average.

Designs for reconstruction will take into account planning for growth of vehicle counts in the future for a 20-year life, noted Iman.

Construction is tentatively planned for 2022 depending on completion of design and availability of funds. Minor utility relocation and acquisition of new right-of-way are anticipated.

The early estimate for the project cost is $600,000.

Opinion, comments and concerns may be submitted by mail to Missoula District Administrator Ed Toavs at the Montana Department of Transportation Missoula office at P.O. Box 7039, Missoula, MT 59807-7039, or online at: https://mdt.mt.gov/mdt/comment_form.shtml.

Note that comments are for project UPN 9417.

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