Wolf Point Herald

MDT Director Hears Appeals For 4-Lane Hwy. 2

10.23.14.HWY.2-ASSN 0758-WEB10.23.14.HWY.2-ASSN 0764-WEB10.23.14.HWY.2-ASSN 0753-WEB

The first photo is Fort Peck Tribes Transportation Program planner Connie Thompson of Poplar and Mark Kurokawa of the Montana Department of Transportation in Wolf Point, listeingn as MDT director Mike Tooley makes a point. The second photo is Tooley and the third is Culbertson City Councilman Bruce Houle.  (Photos by John Plestina)

Several people told Montana Department of Transportation director Mike Tooley that a four-lane divided U.S. Hwy. 2 is needed for safety and economic development during the Highway 2 Association’s annual fall meeting in Glasgow, Friday, Oct. 17.
Needs that were cited for a four-lane highway included increased heavy truck traffic due to Bakken Oilfield development in western North Dakota and eastern Montana, including Roosevelt County.
Tooley, of Havre and a former Montana Highway Patrol trooper who was stationed at Wolf Point, said funding is just not in place at the current time.
“The department [MDT] does place a high emphasis on the Highway 2 Corridor,” Tooley said. But, “as everybody knows, highway funding is up in the air.”
He stressed that future Hwy. 2 construction comes down to resources and the MDT currently does not have the funding.
“Congress did pass a short-term fix to transportation,” Tooley said.
He added that he told Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., that a long-term fix is needed during a recent meeting in Sidney.
“If we had a six-year highway bill, we would be able to plan for six years,” Tooley said.
The federal government funds 87 cents on each highway dollar.
“Right now, the department’s [MDT] position is pavement maintenance,” Tooley said.
“You’re not going to see a four-lane from the state line to Glasgow anytime soon. There is just not the funding for that,” Tooley said.
Bruce Houle, a longtime member of the Culbertson City Council and Chamber of Commerce director, offered a possible funding source.
He asked Tooley if it would be feasible to obtain bonding from banks for road construction and utilize state funds to pay for the debt. Houle compared the state paying off bonded indebtedness for highway construction to paying off a house.
“Establish a new bonding system. Don’t use the state’s money. Go after the banks and let the state pay it off,” Houle said.
“There’s plenty of money sitting in the banks. It’s your dollars,” he said.
“As far as highway bonds, we did bond the construction of the Hwy. 93 corridor,” Tooley said. “That did get some improvements to Hwy. 93 in a short amount of time.”
Highway 2 Association president Bob Sivertsen brought up House Bill 218, a bipartisan bill that passed both houses of the Legislature last year and was vetoed by Gov. Steve Bullock. It would have required the Board of Oil and Gas to administer an infrastructure grant program for oil and gas impacts and would have set up a $15 million annual fund to help local governments impacted by oil and gas development.
“He [Bullock] is still interested in infrastructure in eastern Montana,” Tooley said.
There was a discussion about supporting a new $90 million version of HB 218 during the Great Northern Development Corp., quarterly meeting, Thursday, Oct. 9.
The Eastern Montana Impact Coalition will draft a new and similar legislative bill, with a goal of obtaining as much as $90 million for needs in the 16 counties in eastern Montana.
Sivertsen noted that North Dakota is far ahead of Montana with a four-lane Hwy. 2.
“They [North Dakota] have the oil revenue that we can’t match. They’re in the sweet spot in the Bakken,” Tooley said.
Sivertsen said there has been a study that would include a four-lane highway from the Montana/North Dakota state line to Culbertson and north along the current of Montana Hwy. 16 to the Port of Raymond at the Canadian border.
Houle is a board member of the Theodore Roosevelt Expressway, a proposed four-lane route to enhance business and tourism in several plains states. It would be comprised of several existing highways between Texas-Mexico border and the Port of Raymond, passing through Culbertson.
Houle cited a four-lane highway in Mexico that encourages economic development and tourism.
“Mexico figured it out but Montana can’t,” he said.
The MDT’s Bainville-East project, four-lane beginning at Bainville and continuing to the  Montana/North Dakota state line could begin construction in 2017. Tooley cited problems obtaining right-of-ways. He said it comes down to private property rights.
Since it’s inception in 2001, the Highway 2 Association has been a strong proponent of the “4 For 2” campaign for a four-lane U.S. Hwy. 2 across the 666 miles that crosses Montana, for an adequate transportation system along the Hi-Line with safety, tourism, agriculture and the enhancement of energy and other economic development cited as reasons for the need.
More than one-quarter of Hwy. 2 is in Montana. The route dates to 1926 and spans 2,571 miles across the northern continental United States in two segments. The western portion begins in Everett, Wash., near Seattle, continues through Washington, Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin and ends in Michigan at the Canadian border. The eastern segment begins in New York State about 45 miles south of Montreal, Canada, and continues through Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine, ending at the border between Maine and New Brunswick, Canada.
For additional information, contact the Highway 2 Association at http://www.hwy2mt.org/.


Tribes And Wolf Point Impacts

(Photo by John Plestina)

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Cleanup Of Gysler Property Slated To Begin This Week

The environmental cleanup of the burned out Gysler Furniture and Appliance site on Anaconda Street and Second Avenue South was scheduled to begin Wednesday, Oct. 22.
The City of Wolf Point is informing the public that Anaconda Street will remain open to traffic, but Second Avenue South will be temporarily closed between Anaconda Street and the alley one-half block south. There may be a temporary increase in truck traffic in the downtown area.
Beginning later this week, workers may be dressed in haz-mat protective clothing that is required by federal regulations for asbestos cleanups. Municipal officials want the public to know that there is no disease or any threat to the public.
Safetech Inc., a Billings asbestos abatement contractor, began moving equipment to the site Tuesday, Oct. 21.
There is a 45-day limit for completion of the clean-up phase of the project.
City officials have been working with Great Northern Development Corp. and environmental consultant Newfields of Missoula to clean up the site and redevelop it.
The city now owns the property and city officials hope to sell the property to a developer next year.
The site is a designated Brownfield site where expansion, redevelopment or reuse of the property might be complicated by the presence of hazardous substances, pollutants or contaminants. The designation would make the city eligible for funding through a revolving loan fund and/or federal grant funding for remediation and clean-up of the site.
A fast-moving fire on March 10 destroyed the two adjacent Gysler buildings, leaving portions of block walls and other charred remains, some of which contain asbestos.
While the buildings dated to the early 1900s, remodeling of both structures during the 1960s included roofing and flooring materials made of asbestos, which the fire this year rendered as “friable asbestos,” which is any building material containing more than 1 percent asbestos that could be pulverized or powdered by hand pressure, including asbestos that is damaged by fire, and is subject to federal regulation.
For more information, contact the city office at 653-1852 and speak to Marlene Mahlum or Rick Isle.

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Museum Addition Construction Starts


Construction of a new building adjacent to the Wolf Point Museum began last week. The new building will house antique automobiles, trucks and tractors. It will be ready before the museum reopens in the spring for the 2015 season.    (Photo by John Plestina)

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Meeting In Vida Next Week On Wind Farm Proposal

A public meeting addressing the proposed Sand Creek Winds wind farm in northern McCone County will be held at Vida Elementary School, Wednesday, Oct. 29, at 5 p.m.
The Western Area Power Administration is preparing an environmental assessment to address potential environmental impacts of the proposed 75-MW wind farm that would connect to the existing Wolf Point to Circle 115-kV transmission line that is located about 18 miles from Wolf Point.
The Western Area Power Administration markets and delivers hydroelectric power and related services within a 15-state region of the central and western United States.

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Books ‘n’ Babies


The Roosevelt County Library’s Books ‘n’ Babies program continues Nov. 6 and 20 and Dec. 4 and 18 from 10:30 to 11 a.m. on each date. Pictured at left are Andrea Baker with her twins, Braylee and Brenden, 20 months; library employee Janet Livingston dressed as a witch; and Bethany Hall with Alaina, 5, Adalyn, 4, Alla, 2, and Asher, 4 months.   (Photo by John Plestina)

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