Monday, April 22, 2024

Post Creek Corridor should come first

| February 16, 2023 12:00 AM

We want to go on record as opposing the Ninepipe Corridor section of Highway 93. This section needs to be rebuilt, but with the Montana Department of Transportation (MDT) being short of funding it is apparent the funding should be applied to the Post Creek Corridor instead, which would be less expensive and less hazardous, to humans and wildlife. The reasons are:

• The Post Creek community is a congested area with several businesses, three of which require semi-trucks to turn on and off the highway for access, while traffic can legally travel at 70 miles an hour in the busy area.

• There are no safety shoulders for disabled vehicles to get out of traffic in case of an emergency. (This summer a semi-truck overturned just before the 90-year-old Postcreek bridge, and the highway was blocked for several hours with very limited by-pass opportunities available)

• The Post Creek section has four dangerous intersections with poor visibility and accident history in each area.

• The nearest safe northbound passing area north of St. Ignatius is a distance of four miles and there is limited passing opportunities in the Ninepipe section also.

• The two passing zones in the Post Creek area are very limited. The first very short zone beginning just before the 90-year-old bridge with virtually no safety shoulders and includes a business (Hunts Timbers sawmill) requiring access for semi-trucks in center of the zone. The second passing zone appears to be a longer one, but again has limited safety shoulders and the top third is an uphill grade with limited visibility due to a dip in the highway. Traffic has to compete with southbound traffic going at an increased downhill speed.

• The 90- year-old Post Creek bridge is a major wildlife crossing area with several grizzly bear and many deer and other wildlife killed in the last few years.

MDOT is pushing the more expensive Ninepipe section, ahead of the Post Creek section. The Ninepipe section requires three long bridges, an expensive wildlife overpass, and several large wildlife access culverts. The Post Creek section has one bridge and possibly two wildlife culverts. The approximate two-mile hill section does not pass through any wetlands with very little expensive right-of-way to purchase.

We have seen no tentative plans for the Post Creek Corridor. In the last 30 years the MDOT has been unable to design a bridge over Post Creek or even provide a location for the bridge in the appropriate 100 yards available. MDOT is now using the available funds on the Ronan North Project, which has had no known human or wildlife fatalities. It appears the most congestion is in the Ronan South area and begins north of St. Ignatius because of limited passing opportunities in the approximately 13 miles of Hwy. 93, especially during the high traffic summer months and bad roads in the winter.

Bill and Joni Bick

St. Ignatius