Red Lodge Mayor Ed Williams announced Thursday that after meeting with MDOT and Goran officials construction on Highway 212, north of Red Lodge, will be stopped this evening, July 17 and begin again on Monday July 21. The move was made to accomodate the immense amount of traffic expected for the Beartooth Rally.
Yesterday Mayor Williams had met with MDOT and Goran and voiced his displeasure in no uncertain terms at MDOT’s plans to continue working on Highway 212 throughout the Beartooth Rally weekend.
Williams told representatives from MDOT and Goran that “it is a poor decision.” “You know how busy we were 4th of July? It’ll be busier than that. It creates a real problem with our business community. MDOT needs to help us with that,” he said.
He was told that there was nothing in the contract that specified any need to shut down for this coming weekend.
Williams replied that it was his understanding that there would be no work this weekend.
“At a pr e c o n s t r u c t i o n me e t ing s we discussed you w o u l d s h u t down for the 4th of July event and the rally,” said Williams. “ T h i s w i l l imp a c t t h e entire communit y. You don’t r e a l i z e t h e amount of people that come to these events.”
Goran planned to have a twoway traffic lane through the construction area north of Red Lodge and keep the two detours open.
“This affects the people’s health and safety. It affects businesses. This is a huge weekend for our merchants,” said Williams.
Williams said he would “take the matter to a higher level.”
He was also concerned about the presence of sand bags in front of the storm drains that will prevent silt, concrete and water going down there when the roads are worked on. Williams was told they would be removed.
“People might trip and get hurt,” he said.
Mayor Williams turned his attention to the bike groups that will come into town. “These (bike) groups like to travel together, have their parades and if they’re delayed and a bike falls over onto the gravel, I fear it will create an incident,” said Williams.
Red Lodge Police Chief Steven Hibler reiterated the concerns saying that there will be a variety of different bike groups coming through including many classic cars, with most of them here to enjoy the scenery, but with “workers out there, there is more of an opportunity for things to go wrong.”
He also added that construction workers could find themselves at risk especially from drunk drivers, with the increased drinking that happens on weekends like this. He supported the idea of construction stopping over Friday and Saturday.
Williams did stress however that the City has enough law enforcement to monitor and deal with any eventualities.