RED LODGE, Montana (January 14, 2020) – Highway 78 has a 65 percent higher crash rate than the statewide average, according to a 2008 study performed by the Montana Department of Transportation (MDT). To address safety in this winding rural corridor, MDT is launching the Highway 78 – Red Lodge to Luther project. MDT welcomes all to attend the project’s open house, held on January 23, 2020 from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. at Red Lodge High School, located at 800 Chambers Ave N in Red Lodge. The open house will provide an opportunity for the public to review current plans, provide comments, and ask questions.
“All are welcome at the open house and no formal presentation will be made. We encourage the public to attend whenever best fits their schedule,” said Jeremy Terry, Design Project Manager for the Montana Department of Transportation. “Our goal for the open house is to get public feedback. Project plans are still preliminary and we want to hear ideas and concerns from the community as we prepare to move further into the design process.”
The Highway 78 – Red Lodge to Luther project will flatten steep grades, improve sight distance (the distance that drivers can see around curves and over hills), widen shoulders on both sides of the roadway to four feet, and add additional vehicle turnouts. MDT would also like to replace the bridge crossing where West Red Lodge Creek flows underneath Highway 78 by Lower Luther Road. Construction could start as early as 2025.
“Some may be asking why the long wait until this project goes to construction. The design process takes time and involves many moving parts,” Terry explained. “One of the most important parts is hearing from the community. We want to make sure that the design for this corridor works for those who use this highway most.”
The current design phase includes creation of detailed plans to guide construction, taking into account all of the environmental, geological, hydrological, and survey data collected when researching the project. Engineering a solution that takes into account all of these factors takes time, and often further research is needed to ensure that construction is feasible. While this work is underway, MDT also engages in conversations with landowners on the project, secures necessary permits and funding, incorporates feedback from the public into project plans, and purchases any right-of-way required.
Current estimates predict costs of $17 million to perform these upgrades. The vast majority of funding for the project (87 percent) is coming from the federal government.
MDT looks forward to meeting members of the community on January 23, 2020 from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. at Red Lodge High School, located at 800 Chambers Ave N in Red Lodge. For those who cannot attend the Highway 78 open house, submit a comment or question by calling the project hotline at (406) 207-4484 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Information from the open house will be uploaded to the project website, https://www.mdt.mt.gov/pubinvolve/hwy78/. This website will be continually updated throughout the course of the project.