The City of Red Lodge Open House was jumping with standing room only on Tuesday, March 25, 2-5 p.m., as local business owners and residents poured into City Hall for the Montana Department of Transportation (MDT)’s the summer road construction presentation. MDT’s Division Administrator, Stefan Streeter opened the discussion. MDT had brought its main team and its contractor, Goran, LLC. Goran’s public relations representative, Lynda Friesz-Martin, facilitated the meeting. City and county officials were present. Focus centered upon traffic impacts and detour routes. Three phases are planned: 1. 2nd St to Robinson; 2. 5th St. to 2nd St. and 3. Brewery Hill. The original dates on the map passed out had anticipated start/completion dates of Phase one: April 1-May 14; Phase 2: May 15 to July 17 and Phase 3: May 25 to July 10. Ryan Kates, on site project manager for contractor Goran, LLC explained that the weather had impacted these dates. They are all now “tentatively” moved back two weeks.
See Chamber, MDT and city websites for a revised map next week. Many concerns were voiced: Fourth of July was essential, a high point of the season; the Fun Run at the end of August was a concern since about $200,000 comes in for local charities and even Don Coutts advised that the horse path for his draft horses from Sam’s Tap Room to Broadway had to be clear in order for him to taxi people and survive the summer. Bastian questioned why the project had to work “from outside the town working in” instead of working “from inside the town working out.” Kates explained that hooking up to the storm drains was essential at the north end of town to prevent problems at spring thaw. Another question was why “3 days of mill and fill”, a phrase frequently used to describe the first process of filling with dirt to build up the road, was being done in high season. Kates said, “Unfortunately, in Red Lodge, that is the best time to ensure weather conditions for paving are best.” It was asked how and when the first signage would occur. Streeter explained that mandatory signage would be posted by the contractor but only about a mile outside of the roads leading to the construction site. They would provide signs for directing towards businesses. Patty Davis, Red Lodge Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director talked about efforts to set up billboards near Cody, Columbus and Billings to show the town is open and counter any “negative rumors like last year.”
The Chamber is storing the electronic sign that would be put up on Hwy 212 to stress the town is open for business. At one point, Kates assured the public that detours would be paved before being open, that Broadway would always be accessible, and that they will work hard to “walk people towards their doors” for businesses. He wanted the least impact and to avoid late fines for failure to complete on schedule. Businesses located along the north end of town had special concerns. Trish LaCombe, manager of a business in north Red Lodge, looked at detours posted and said, “that means our traffic must come through the lumber yard.” She was assured the best route possible would be done and to talk to them about special concerns. “I need you to work with me on this, please!” she implored. Streeter reassured the crowd, “This is not last year’s project.” He was referring to last summer’s City water main project. “We listen to the community. We do things differently.” The project will construct a roundabout at the intersection of Broadway and state route 78, will grade and resurface Broadway from 8th to Robinson, will overlay the existing pavement, add guard rail and install ADA improvements on U.S. 212 south of Red Lodge, and will grade and resurface Brewery Hill on state route 78 between Hauser Avenue and Lazy M Street. Friesz-Martin gave her cell phone which she said would be available 24 hours a day for concerns and questions: (406) 426-4345. Emergency contacts are Tyler Urrutia (801) 850-2238 and Jason Mojica (801) 319-1821. There will be weekly meetings at City Hall, Wednesdays, 8:00 a.m. led by Goran with state staff present once construction is underway.