After years of struggling with the problem, leaders of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, and the Montana Department of Transportation have finally located millions of dollars that will help make critical safety improvements to the main road through the Mission Valley.

The new grant award, which amounts to $ 30 million, will help the tribes and the state expand one of the most dangerous sections of U.S. 93 while meeting objectives to save critical wildlife habitat and lessen environmental impacts.

The money which is being awarded to CSKT from the Nationally Significant Federal Lands and Tribal Projects program will finally help advance plans to widen and improve the narrow "Post Creek Hill" section south of Ronan.

The problem of "threading the needle"

For years, tribal leaders and state engineers have wrestled with a way to widen the highway south of Nine Pipes, where 93 drops into the Lower Mission Valley through a section full of wetlands. Not only must habitat for grizzly bears and other wildlife be preserved, but the road must be designed to be stable, yet large enough to increase capacity. Post Creek is one of the most dangerous sections, where truck traffic slows climbing the hill and impatient drivers are involved in fatal accidents.

Google Maps
The "Post Creek" section of U.S. 93- Google Maps

One of our main goals with this project is protecting area wildlife and increasing resources to protect our homeland. This funding will help us work towards this effort.” - Rich Janssen, CSKT Natural Resources

Major reconstruction planned

The grant will help rebuild the highway from Dublin Gulch Road north of St. Ignatius to Gunlock Road. That all includes the construction of a multi-span bridge over Post Creek, a northbound passing lane up the hill, more underpass tunnels for wildlife, and a shared-use path for bikes and walkers.

“We appreciate the excitement our community has shown surrounding this project,” explained Rich Janssen, Department Head of Natural Resources at CSKT. “This portion of US 93 is in great need, and we look forward to diving into the next phase in the coming months."

More details are forthcoming. But the goal is to use the money to help with the total reconstruction of U.S. 93 through both the Post Creek and Nine Pipe sections.

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