(present-day Missoula) A transportation research on U.S. Freeway 93 between Lolo and Florence is in its last part and is predicted to supply a variety of suggestions to enhance security and cut back the variety of wildlife collisions throughout the path.
Sarah Nicolay, challenge engineer for Robert Becchia and Associates in Helena, mentioned suggestions might embrace bettering lighting, lowering speeds, bettering intersections and potential wildlife crossings.
Finally, funding will decide what the Montana Division of Transportation chooses to deal with, and when.
“A variety of residents and commuters are in search of security and operational enhancements on this space,” mentioned Nikolay. “Site visitors volumes are undoubtedly rising within the Missoula and Pierrot areas.”
An environmental influence research was accomplished again in 1997 and new lanes have been added to the freeway because of this beginning in 2001. One other research was performed in 2008 extra native enhancements and in 2020 MDT accomplished a focused research security enhancements on some websites.
Breakdowns stay an issue throughout the lane, in response to a security pattern evaluation. From 2016 to 2020, it has recognized 198 accidents, together with two deaths. Of the accidents, 55% have been associated to animals and 42% occurred at evening.
“We all know there are a variety of conflicts between wild animals and automobiles throughout the path,” mentioned Nikolai. “We understand these numbers are simply incidents reported to legislation enforcement. There are different security issues that do not essentially present up in these numbers.”
The continuing research additionally discovered that site visitors has turn out to be extra intense attributable to its proximity to Missoula, and a few intersections make it troublesome to enter or entry the interstate. They discovered that the Bitterroot Path additionally causes battle with motorists.
At this level within the research, Nikolai mentioned public suggestions has referred to as for extra site visitors lights, decrease speeds, extra legislation enforcement presence, highway lighting, a bodily barrier between north and south lanes, and extra lodging for wildlife.
“Our research will doc the recognized use and determine methods to scale back conflicts amongst hall wildlife,” mentioned Nikolai. “Our process now’s to research these potential hall options in additional element.”
The freeway may be troublesome for animals to navigate, Nikolai mentioned, and several other places have been looked for potential enhancements. Components of the Lolo Creek Bridge are satisfactory for big mammals, however the rip partitions at its base aren’t splendid.
Two grizzly bears crossing the freeway this previous August have been additionally tracked and did so through a stocked lane under the highway, suggesting one other attainable resolution. McClain Creek was additionally recognized in a earlier research as a wildlife hyperlink between the Bitterroot and Sapphire Ranges.
Nonetheless, the sinkhole of McClain Creek is just too small for big mammals to make use of.
The research will proceed this yr with outcomes anticipated within the fall. However Bob Vossen, MDT’s Missoula Area Director, mentioned development will depend upon financing.
“The problem is all funding is tied,” he mentioned. “The laborious half is we do not know but what the potential options are. We’ll attempt to see if there’s any extra fruit hanging round, one thing simple and cheap.”
Vossen mentioned the area’s funding is dedicated for the subsequent 5 years and that transferring one challenge up might set one other again. Nonetheless, he mentioned security is king and quite a lot of funding sources could also be out there for some initiatives.
One supply of funding aimed toward addressing wildlife crossings could also be out there in a brand new federal discretionary grant.
“We’ll look into that,” Vossen mentioned. “There may be additionally a gaggle within the state that’s keen on PPPs, and we try to work with them to determine some start-up initiatives simply to get the (wildlife crossing) operation in place. With discretionary grants, we’re excited to see what these seem like as properly.”