In Broadwater County, south of Townsend lies US 287, an important state highway connecting Interstate 90 to Helena and surrounding communities is receiving increased usage. This route is important for residents, agriculture, freight, and recreation. It is also popular for tourists traveling between Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks. Because the road and bridges are over 70 years old, they no longer meet transportation design, environment, or safety standards. In a recent 5-year study, this area has also had higher crash frequency and more severe crashes than the statewide average.
In April of 2019, the Montana Department of Transportation (MDT) entered into the construction phase of a project to upgrade US 287 to current standards for existing and future traffic demands. This will involve roadway reconstruction and replacement of three bridge structures. Upon its completion traffic safety, functionality, and operations are expected to be improved for through-traffic, local access, and unique local needs.
Construction includes replacing all existing culverts and adding new guardrails, a tunnel for pedestrians under the new bridge structure, a school bus turnout, and intersection improvements. The new bridges will be wider than the existing ones and will also include more room on the shoulder for walkers and bicyclists. 3.5 miles of new roadway will be put in, some of which will be to connect to the new bridges over the Missouri River and BNSF railroad tracks. Warning signs and wildlife detection systems, along with wildlife fencing, will be installed to reduce wildlife deaths and increase driver safety.
After the new roadway and bridges are completed, the old roadway and bridges will be removed. Construction is expected to take two seasons (2019 and 2020) and to be completed in the spring of 2021.