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Ronan approves highway couplet

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RONAN — At a July 20 meeting, city councilmembers approved a 2018 Highway 93 construction project that will create a four-lane highway system that passes through Ronan.

Mayor Kim Aipperspach said signing off on the proposed couplet system was routine business for the ongoing process of the highway’s construction planning, which has been underway for the past two decades. The design will include a northbound couplet that follows the path of the current roadway, while a southbound couplet will occupy space that rests along First Avenue. 

The city council and state highway officials spent much of last year negotiating a system that would minimally impact businesses and Bockman Park, though many citizens were still discontented with a preliminary access plan presented in June 2014. State highway officials said the access plan would likely change over time. 

Aipperspach said the latest vote comes after a meeting to evaluate the safety and long-term viability of the couplet system. 

“Everyone agreed the couplets were the safest,” Aipperspach said. 

Despite some citizens’ frustrations, councilmembers said the highway constructions will likely help the town as summer congestion becomes an issue. 

“I grew up on the side of the highway and we’ve all seen it, it’s coming, more people are coming,” Councilmember Chris Adler said of traffic. 

Aipperspach said the department and the Montana Highway Patrol had to direct traffic that was backed up several miles toward Pablo on July 5 as crowds headed home after spending the holiday weekend on Flathead Lake. Weaver said the heavy traffic confused the stoplights bringing traffic to a crawl or standstill for around three hours. 

“I’ve been sitting on that corner for 40 years and that’s the only time I’ve seen that happen when there wasn’t an accident or construction,” Aipperspach said. 

Construction is scheduled to begin in 2018 on the north side of town. 

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