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Highway 191 corridor survey paves way for 'dozens' of projects from Big Sky to Four Corners

Posted at 11:05 AM, Jul 29, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-29 13:05:22-04

Over the last year, the Montana Department of Transportation has been watching Highway 191 between Four Corners and Big Sky with interest.

They now have a study on the table, showing what needs to happen next to make it better and safer for drivers.

It’s a study from the Montana Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Association (FHWA), taking a close look at 191 between the Jackrabbit intersection at Huffine in Four Corners, all the way to beyond Big Sky.

The goal: take a look at this and try to make it safer for the future.

“There have been over 1,000 crashes over the past 10 years,” says Scott Randall, traffic and transportation manager for Robert Peccia & Associates (RPA). “Those crashes have resulted in seven fatalities and 32 serious injuries.”

Numbers like that are what bring MDT, the FHWA and others to keep a close eye on 36 miles of highway like 191.

“We’ve completed a pretty thorough evaluation of the corridor to try to better understand what the issues are and what challenges we’re faced with when we are thinking about future improvements,” Randall says.

“MDT also looks out into the future to anticipate what the needs of the corridor might be over the next 20 years,” says Katie Potts, MDT Project Manager. “We will be able to use the information gathered in this planning process to feed into future project development activities if an individual project is nominated.”

The 191 Corridor Planning Study aims to pave more than 191 but a plan to its future, from wildlife crossings to protecting the nearby Gallatin River.

But as MDT watches Gallatin County’s growth, they say it’s clear: the number of wheels on that concrete is only growing.

“There’s upwards of 17,000 vehicles a day on the highway,” Randall says. “When we get further south towards Big Sky, that number drops to about 7,000 vehicles a day.”

Out of those thousands, 24 percent of those involved animals.

22 percent: hitting fixed objects, like the newly replaced guardrails.

And more data points to more improvements needed.

“We identified 40 recommended improvements along this 36 mile long corridor,” Randall says.

From 18 small spot improvements to five large-scale reconstructions within the next two decades.

It’s a lot to take in but, to the department, all the more reason to have a study like this to plan ahead.

“Early communication and discussion is always good,” Randall says. “That’s one big reason why we do these planning studies. The earlier, the better with anything.”

You can view the entire study here, which also includes links so that you can look at the 36 mile route and all of the individual recommendations.