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Chamber provides update on TIGER Grant projects

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David Kack from the Western Transportation Institute discusses TIGER Grant updates. PHOTO COURTESY OF THE BIG SKY CHAMBER OF COMMERCE

HW 64 construction expected to begin this summer

By Mira Brody EBS STAFF

BIG SKY – Construction on Lone Mountain Trail, otherwise known as U.S. Highway 64, will begin this summer funded by a $10.3 million federal Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery Grant. Updates on the TIGER Grant were provided by representatives from Sanderson Stewart and the Western Transportation Institute at an April 29 Big Sky Chamber of Commerce Eggs & Issues meeting.

A slide from the Sanderson Stewart presentation portion of Eggs & Issues shows traffic volume trajectory, and projected growth over the next 20 years. PHOTO COURTESY OF THE BIG SKY CHAMBER OF COMMERCE

Big Sky’s unincorporated status, straddling of county lines and main thoroughfare owned by the state all pose hurdles for attaining funding through the state or county for infrastructure projects like most incorporated cities can. 

The TIGER Grant provided a way to overcome these hurdles, says David Kack, executive director of the WTI at Montana State University.

The federal grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation was originally awarded to Gallatin County in June of 2018. Through Big Sky Area Resort Tax funding, the county contracted Bozeman-based engineering firm Sanderson Stewart for the road improvement projects. Sanderson Stewart spent extensive time collecting community input and data about traffic activity on Highway 64, which revealed problem areas including congested and dangerous intersections, wildlife crossings and pedestrian access.

“You don’t have to spend much time in Big Sky to understand what those are,” Kack said of the highway’s issues. “You see skid marks on the roads at these places because someone’s not paying attention and they see someone coming in front of them and they have to hit the breaks pretty hard.”

Design began in the fall of 2019, the full design plans were finalized in June of 2020, and Danielle Scharf, principal partner and regional manager of Sanderson Stewart, says bids will be submitted May 2, and accepted on May 25. The contractor will have their notice to proceed with construction in June or early July. In June Sanderson Stewart will host a community update to establish project sequencing and traffic control.

Project plans include eight additional turn lanes along Highway 64, wildlife crossing signs, a pedestrian bridge and tunnel near Little Coyote Road, vehicle pullout areas and recreation paths along the road, much like the one in Bozeman leading to the ‘M’ trailhead.

Also present at the Eggs & Issues meeting was Laura Seyfang, executive director of the Big Sky Community Housing Trust, and Kack, this time representing the Big Sky Transportation District. Seyfang spoke of the importance of providing affordable options for working class families in the community. She says when families can live where they work, they become more invested in their community.

“It’s not a one-size-fits-all,” she said. “We have to come up with a lot of solutions to help those who are struggling to afford to live here.”

Their most recent partnership with Lone Mountain Land Company involved closing on the former American Bank property along Highway 64 and the adjacent parcel with workforce housing in mind. Seyfang says the benefit of using the Community Land Trust to make these purchases is that the community owns the deed, preventing it from being sold for any other use.

Kack spoke of the importance of expanding the Big Sky transportation District’s current boundary, an issue currently on the ballot that arrived in voters’ mailboxes last week. Those in the new proposed boundary will be the only ones voting on the boundary expansion and he noted that at this time, driving your ballot to the elections office is the only way to ensure your vote is counted.

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