A three and half mile stretch of road along US Highway 87 at Armington Junction is midway through construction. The project includes completing a new bridge over Belt Creek on US 87 just north of Armington Junction.
In addition, the project will:
- Reconstruct approximately 3.5 miles of existing road on US 87, including widening the road to five lanes starting from the Belt Creek bridge toward Belt and Great Falls in both directions.
- Construct a roundabout at Armington Junction.
- Construct a new culvert over Neil Creek and a new culvert at Frenchman’s Coulee.
Rich Hibl, a construction engineer for the Great Falls Division of the Montana Department of Transportation, says that the project is coming along: “Where we're at right now is installing cement, treated bays and gravel through starting on what I would call the south end of the job working north. They are still hauling sub grade through the middle portion of the job. And once that's finished up of course, we'll be hitting that with gravel and CTB as well.”
Riverside Contracting is working alongside MDT diligently to ensure the sub-layer of the road is properly built before paving. The steps the crews are taking now are providing the foundation of the final product. Upgrades to the Belt Creek Bridge are moving swiftly.
Some concerns have been reported to KRTV about the driving surface of the current dirt road.
“There are some rough spots through the job. It was close to three inches of rain that we got last weekend. And the contractor worked through the weekend and has been working yesterday and today on filling in any of these holes and any rough spots that we've got. So, we are working on getting the traveling surface up to a more smooth situation,” said Hibl.
The complaint came in from an area that was on the south side of Belt Creek Bridge. The three inches of rain created a large indent in the road that became a major puddle and caused trouble for some drivers.
“Slow down. Watch for rough patches, things like that, and just know that MDT and the contractor are working pretty diligently to get all that smoothed up. To the best of our ability,” reiterated Hibl.
Scott Wagner, who frequently drives Highway 87 to get to his favorite hiking spots, said that the construction has added 20 minutes to his commute. He feels that the addition of the round-a-bout is a positive one.
“We've seen the ones in town. They work great. You know, people don't really have to slow down that much, you know, to get where they're going. You know, it's orderly once you get used to it. And I think it'll work great.”
According to the MDT, the "T" intersection at Armington Junction, plus the weigh station and rest area, create 28 conflict points for potential crashes. A single-lane roundabout will reduce those conflict points down to eight. After studying four alternatives and consulting with the public and critical stakeholders, MDT has determined a roundabout is the safest option.
MDT says that crashes at rural intersections often are at high speeds, resulting in severe injuries or fatalities. Approximately 1/3 of annual intersection fatalities in the United States occur along rural, two-lane highways.
Because of the severity of crashes, a crash history analysis performed during the design phase for Armington Junction for 10 years reported nine crashes, including one fatality. More recently, news reports documented an additional three-fatality crash in 2013 and a four-fatality crash in 2019 near Armington Junction.
“Construction season is upon us, and we are excited to provide the traveling public with a seamless ride as a result of this work,” said MDT District Administrator Jim Wingerter in a news release. “MDT thanks the public for their patience as we reconstruct several miles of roadway, allowing it to accommodate larger vehicles, improve the overall driving experience, and meet modern safety standards.”
For more information, click here to visit the project website.
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