Some traffic flow changes expected during construction
By Bella Butler EBS STAFF
BIG SKY – Construction will begin next week on two road improvement projects in Big Sky. Crews will be constructing a two-way left turn lane on Montana Highway 64 and upgrades to the traffic signal at the entrance of Big Sky. These projects will cause some changes to traffic flow during construction.
Originally lumped into the slew of projects slated to be funded by the TIGER grant, these upgrades will precede other TIGER grant projects thanks to alternative sources of funding.
The nearly $200,000 traffic signal upgrade will be funded through the federal Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program and will be completed through the Montana Department of Transportation. Lone Mountain Land Company will foot the $1.3 million bill for the turning lane that will be constructed on MT 64 near Ace Hardware.
Gallatin County announced in June that projects to be funded by the TIGER grant, which was awarded to Big Sky in 2017 by the Federal Highway Administration in the amount of $10.2 million, would be delayed until the spring of 2022 after the single construction bid received came in $3 million over budget.
Sanderson Stewart, the firm overseeing the design and construction of the TIGER grant work, believes that removing these two projects from the overall scope of TIGER grant work as well as making changes to design will “help address the budget challenges with the overall TIGER project,” according to a Sept. 9 press release.
“We’re hopeful that we’ll have a much better bid this second time around just by the combination of these changes,” project manager and engineer Danielle Scharf told EBS.
LMLC currently has plans to build two employee housing structures in the Powderlight Subdivision adjacent to Ace. Per the Gallatin County Commission’s safety concerns, construction on one of the two employee housing lots cannot begin until the turning lane is finished. While construction and sitework can be completed on the second lot without the turn lane, the building cannot be occupied without it.
“LMLC is a partner with the Big Sky Community and Gallatin County to help address some of our biggest community issues: lack of workforce housing and increasing traffic congestion,” Kevin Germain, a vice president of LMLC, wrote in a statement to EBS.
In order to keep the budget deficit from eliminating the scope of the TIGER grant work, Germain said that LMLC worked with Gallatin County to fund the turn lane on MT 64 privately. “In addition, a very significant workforce housing project can move forward,” he wrote. According to Germain, “it is projected that [occupants of the employee housing] will be employees of LMLC companies and our retail partners.”
The turn lane construction will cause a single-lane closure near the construction site for four weeks, according to Scharf, and a pilot car and temporary signal will be used to control traffic.
The work on the traffic signal at the junction between MT 64 and U.S. Highway 191 will include upgrades to the signal hardware as well as the addition of a protected left turn signal. According to MDT Traffic Project Engineer Michael Grover, the project is expected to wrap up mid-November, and Scharf added that this project isn’t expected to impede traffic much.