Addressing the canyon crunch
Corridor study explores issues and solutions to US Highway 191 traffic and safety
It could be called the canyon crunch – the dreaded commute between Bozeman and Big Sky. Many are making the trek as employment opportunities continue to flourish in the area, the population steadily increases and affordable housing remains an issue.
“In recent years, the area has experienced substantial growth which has put considerable strain on existing infrastructure resulting in increased traffic, reduced travel times, and concerns for safety,” according to Montana Department of Transportation (MDT) literature on the subject.
The study specifies that the population of Gallatin County has grown at a rate of 2.6% per year over the past 48 years and the number of jobs in Gallatin County has increased by 3.8% per year over the past 37 years.
“Bozeman and Big Sky are some of the largest employment centers in the county,” a MDT newsletter states.
A study is currently underway exploring issues and potential solutions to managing the US Highway 191 corridor between Huffine Lane/Norris Road/Jackrabbit Lane in Four Corners and Beaver Creek Road just south of Big Sky.
One year in duration, the study is set to wrap-up in August, and is a collaborative effort between MDT, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), local jurisdictions, resource agencies, and the public.
“The purpose of the US Highway 191 Corridor Study is to develop a comprehensive long-range plan for managing the corridor and determining what improvements can be made to address identified needs while considering public and agency input, environmental considerations, and financial feasibility,” an overview of the study on the MDT website states. “The study will address feasible improvement options to address safety, operational and geometrical concerns within the study area.”
Among the frequently asked questions about the study is what will occur at the study’s conclusion.
“This early planning process is distinct from the environmental compliance, design and construction phases of an individual project. Any future steps will be determined by MDT in conjunction with FHWA and Gallatin County,” according to the study website.
MDT recently hosted public open houses in Gallatin Gateway and Big Sky to gauge public concerns.
“We had great turnout at both open houses. We had approximately 150 people attend at Gallatin Gateway and 50 at Big Sky. It was evident there was a lot of interest in the highway. The majority of comments and concerns we heard were related to safety. We heard about vehicle speeds, interaction with large trucks, difficulty to access to/from the highway, and overall congestion issues,” Scott Randall, traffic and transportation group manager with Robert Peccia & Associates, a civil engineering firm assisting with the study said.
Although those open houses have concluded, he said public comment is still encouraged.
More information on the study and the link for submitting comment can be found at www.mdt.mt.gov/pubinvolve/US191