by Evelyn Pyburn – For the Yellowstone County News
The Highway 3 Access Study conducted by Sanderson Stewart Engineering firm for the City/County Planning Department was approved by Yellowstone County Commissioners last week. After receiving similar review and approval by the Billings City Council and the Planning Board, the study will advance to the next meeting of the Policy Coordinating Committee (PCC) for final approval, on March 24.
In anticipation of road improvements along a corridor of Highway 3 which follows the rims above Billings from the intersection of North 27th in front of the airport to a point west of Zimmerman, the study deals with highway design, trails, storm water detention, and parking issues. It includes the possibility of a roundabout at the intersection of Zimmerman Trail and Highway 3. Improvements being done to Zimmerman Trail are considered a separate project, and are not included in this study.
The Montana Department of Transportation has program safety funds identified for the improvements on Highway 3, and plan to do work in five separate projects, “starting fairly soon,” said Planner Scott Walker, in presenting the details of the plan to County Commissioners.
Plans for storm water detention took special care not to create standing water, which could attract water fowl, which would be considered problematic by Airport officials. The plans include a pedestrian /bike trail that would create access to the rims and terminate west of the proposed roundabout.
The plans also include recommendations to reclaim a wide gravel expanse between the highway and the rims into more of a natural area. Three parking areas are also in the plans, areas which would limit the opportunity for truckers to “overnight” at the site, said Walker.