Lockwood is in the crosshairs again!! and it’s another reason residents of Lockwood and Billings Heights should be encouraged and upbeat. It’s called the Northend Bypass and it could be open to the public in the coming next 8 years, or as early as 2020.
Stefan Streeter, district manager for the Montana Department of Transportation – Billings District Office, proposed the Northend Bypass between Lockwood and the Billings Heights to the Yellowstone County Policy Coordinating Committee (PCC) on July 17th with the request that the PCC place the project as a top priority for Yellowstone County on its transportation plan.
The long awaited Environmental Impact Statement for the project has been completed and is now ready for public hearings.
PCC members agreed to take the issue back to their respective departments for support and approval. Mr. Streeter is one of the PCC members while others represent the county, the City of Billings and the City-County Planning Board.
He said that there are still issues of fiscal constraint which is a federal requirement that says, before moving forward, they have to identify the sources of funding to build the project. However, Streeter is optimistic that they will succeed in identifying those sources for the project. They already have a good amount of the needed $80 million with $68 million of it identified. Streeter said, that includes the $18 million remaining from a $21 million earmark granted in 1999 for the project.
There are some major structures involved in the project that will push up its cost though. That includes a bridge that will cross the Yellowstone River. Streeter has pledged MDT’s commitment to help in trying to fill the gap with regards to funding.
It’s possible that while the briidge over the Yellowstone River is completed, something can be done about the Johnson Lane interchange as well so that might help the project. Streeter urged the committee to be aware of potential earmarks and to be prepared to apply for them when available.
Jonathan McNiven, State Representative for House District 44 which includes Lockwood, is “encouraged for the progress that is being made regarding the Northend Bypass. “The Northend Bypass will add to the many other positive things happening in Lockwood”, he said, “along with businesses moving into Lockwood and a possible Community Center”. “We are greatful to the County Commissioners and those involved for thier support of our projects.”
County Commissioners have pushed forward the Northend Bypass over the years and Commissioner John Ostlund said the bypass “is the most critical transportation link that will make Yellowstone County work in the future. It will move trucks, cars and emergency vehicles efficiently.”
The Northend Bypass has been in the works since 1999 when a group of citizens from Lockwood pushed for a transportation route between Lockwood and the Heights. One that would help alleviate traffic on Main Street as a safety issue. The need was spotlighted when the 2010 tornado hit MetraPark and everyone saw first-hand how quickly the Main Street bottleneck occurred, stranding citizens from emergency services across the Yellowtone River.