Highway 12 to get some much-needed improvements

By TIM BOULWARE

One of the most dangerous stretches of road in our area will soon be getting the attention it deserves.

DOWL, a civil engineering and public involvement firm, along with the Montana Department of
Transportation, hosted an information session at the East Helena Volunteer Fire Station on Tuesday about work that has been approved for the U.S. Highway 12 Viaduct in town.

City Councilman Mike Misowic believes this project will ultimately save lives.

“It’s just sad it was so long coming that is probably the biggest thing I could say. I think certainly it is going to improve everything. I’m glad to see the Jersey barrier down the center personally. At least it’s going to keep the crossovers and the head on collisions to stop,” Misowic said.

DOWL public involvement leader Sarah Nicolai details the extensive data MDT gathered to determine this project was needed.

“They look at 10 years of data over the period from 2005 to 2014, they identified 75 crashes and
multiple of those were the lane departure type crashes,” Nicolai said.

Approval depended on whether an engineering solution could be found and because of this the project area will begin west of Shepard Way and stretch to 4th and Wylie Drive.

“Starting with Shepard Way, MDT will be installing a raised median, so it’s kind of a raised curbing with some delineation or the reflective markers,” Nicolai said. “It will transition to concrete barriers, the solid barrier about waist-high through the S-curve portion, and then transition to the raised median.

“Throughout the entire project area they will be installing new lighting, new signage and new markings.”

The work will also include bridge improvements and a treatment to give drivers better traction on ice.

Once construction starts in the spring crews will make this a quick turnaround.

“In about April to May time period they’ll start with the concrete barrier and then move into phase two of construction beginning in July which will be the raised median and all the other treatments,” Nicolai said.

It is anticipated most work will be completed by November. Total cost of the project is $3 million, and 90 percent of the funding is through the federal Highway Safety Improvement Program; the state will chip in the remaining 10 percent.