Anyone who drives on U.S. Highway 93 between Lolo and Florence knows how unpredictable and dangerous the trip can be with drivers entering and leaving the highway and the high speeds that have led to many accidents and fatalities.

The Montana Department of Transportation (MDT) and the research firm of Robert Peccia and Associates (RPA) are collaborating on a study for possible improvements for travelers on U.S. 93 between Lolo and Florence.

We spoke with Jacquelyn Smith, Pre-construction Engineer for the Montana Department of Transportation, Missoula District Office about the study that will begin in the next few weeks.

“It's a study that we have on Highway 93, from Lolo to Florence,” began Smith. “So, the Northern end is around the Delarka Drive intersection in Lolo, and then the southern limit is the intersection by Long Avenue on the northern side of Florence by the school. What we're hoping to gain by this is some updated data out there. Starting next week RPA, who's the consultant that's conducting the study, will be having crews out there getting updated traffic information.”

Smith expanded on that point.

“Again, the step one component is getting updated information,” she said. “What are the current conditions we're seeing out there and identifying what the issues are, and that's going to be the big point. Are the issues that are occurring out there based on the data we are collecting? And then the next step is identifying solutions and not just having this broad range of solutions, but it'd be really nice to get specific and this is, this is the fully vetted solution and we want to go with it.”

She said part of the research will include a ‘speed study’ on Highway 93 South.

“The results of that speed study will come when we collect the data and see what the traffic is driving out there,” she said. “The report will be compiled showing what the existing conditions are and what the observations are. The report is prepared that documents that information and will be shared with the local governments that requested the speed study, and it will then be presented to the Transportation Commission and they will decide if a speed reduction is needed or if the speed limit is fine where it is.”

Smith said the difference with this study is that the MDT also hopes to find resources to fund the improvements, instead of further burdening the taxpayers.

“We're very excited for this, especially the fact that we want to look for funding and hopefully be successful in any of the grants we try for to actually deliver the finished product,” she said. “I would hope that at the completion of the study we can deliver a project that improves safety while balancing the needs of the local landowners and the sensitive features that are around there, such as the animals and the wetlands.”

For questions, Smith said the project hotline will be answered Monday through Friday between 9:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. at 406-207-4484.

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