by Evelyn Pyburn-Oringally published in the print edition of the Yellowstone County News on 1/13/17.
BILLINGS — Airport Road in Billings, from Main Street in the Heights to the 27th Street roundabout, could soon be known as the Conrad Burns Memorial Highway, in honor of the late senator who represented Montana for three terms.
Upon the recommendation of County Commissioner Denis Pitman, Yellowstone County Commissioners are putting the process into motion by sending a letter with the request to Stefan Streeter, district manager of the Montana Department of Transportation. The Montana State Legislature must approve the request.
Pitman said that in talking to him, Streeter indicated that he would be glad to carry forth the proposal.
Pitman said he had also talked to Sen. Burn’s widow, Phyllis Burns, who was pleased with the idea. Pitman said she told him that the senator had always resisted having things named after him, but she thought this was appropriate.
Renaming Airport Road in the senator’s honor is especially fitting, said Pitman, since he helped secure funding for the revamping of the broad modern thoroughfare from the narrow two-lane road it once was. Burns was, in fact, instrumental in securing funding for a number of local major transportation projects. He was also very much involved in the development of MetraPark, which is located just below the road’s intersection with Main Street.
Burns, a Republican, served two years as a Yellowstone County Commissioner before unseating incumbent Democratic Sen. John Melcher in 1988. He was re-elected in 1994.
He lost his bid for re-election in 2006 to Democratic Sen. Jon Tester.
He retired to his home in Billings until his death last April at the age of 81.