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Schedule, design plans for Hwy. 93 expansion shared

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RONAN — Design plans and a preliminary construction schedule to widen U.S. Hwy. 93 from two to four lanes north of Ronan were shared last week during two virtual open houses held via Zoom.

A team of engineers and officials with the Montana Department of Transportation and KLJ Engineering provided project updates to the public Nov. 15 and 16. Originally called the Ninepipes Ronan project – part of the larger U.S. 93 corridor expansion from Missoula to Polson – the complex project, which involves a couplet through town, has since been separated into smaller pieces. The Ronan-North U.S. Hwy. 93 project, involving the stretch of highway from Lake’s corner north of Ronan to the stoplight at Round Butte Road, is the first piece to be completed.

The reconstruction area will widen the highway from two to four lanes and includes the initial portion of the couplet for the southbound lane, which until the Ronan-Urban project is started, will serve as a turning lane for Round Butte Road.

The couplet will begin just after Pizza Café and continues south through the former Boys and Girls Club location, entering Round Butte Road where Tribal Health offices are currently located.

The project includes a new traffic light at Old U.S. 93 and Third Avenue, the permanent closure of Spring Creek Road at U.S. 93 and a new shared use path that will connect Round Butte Road to the existing path that runs adjacent to the highway north of Ronan to Pablo.

During construction, traffic will be routed over paved surfaces as much as possible said Bob Vosen with the Montana Department of Transportation.

Questions from the public concerned access to businesses during construction as well as safety for pedestrians and bicyclists. Responses were that all accesses to businesses will be maintained during construction and new pedestrian features for improved safety are part of design plans. The walking path will cross the highway at the new light signal at Old U.S. 93 and Third Avenue and continue alongside the northbound traffic lane into Ronan.

The Ronan-North project is still in its design process as right of way acquisitions are made and utilities are relocated. Engineers anticipate awarding the construction contract in spring / summer 2022 with construction possible by summer / fall 2022. Project construction will shut down for the winter of 2022 / 2023 and resume during the spring / fall of 2023 until complete. Presenters noted the estimated schedule is subject to change and to check the website for updates: https://mdt.mt.gov/pubinvolve/ronanurban

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