by Evelyn Pyburn-Originally published in the weekly edition of the Yellowstone County News on 3/4/16.
BILLINGS — Construction to complete the modernization of Bench Boulevard began this week, reports Knife River of Billings, the general contractor for the project. Utility crews have been doing some preliminary work along Bench Boulevard over the past few weeks, but actual construction to resurface and widen the street will commence in earnest and run throughout the summer, according to Doug Teller, project manager. (The start date was earlier announced to be Feb. 29, but was moved back to March 2.)
The project, from Hilltop to Pemberton, will complete the modernization of the entire length of Bench Boulevard. Earlier phases built the Bench Connector between Lincoln Lane and the intersection at Main and Sixth Avenue North. Another phase widened and enhanced the street from Lincoln Lane to Hilltop. Last year, a signal light was installed at the end of Bench at the north end of Main Street, and rebuilt the intersection. Knife River got the bid – at $8.5 million – to build this phase of the project, which will probably be mostly completed this summer. The contract calls for its completion in 140 working days. Construction crews will start at Barrett Road and move north while related utility installation and significant shoulder work continues south of Wicks Lane.
The Bench Boulevard Project is widening the street to three lanes, including a center turn lane. Additional modifications include improved street lighting and signage, new sidewalks, boulevard landscaping, and bulb-out corners at school zones for safety purposes. Teller said, “Our teams live and work here – we recognize the disruption construction can create and are committed to limiting delays and detours whenever possible. Throughout the project, Knife River will distribute schedule details and road closure notifications in order to reduce inconveniences and encourage open communication with the surrounding community.”
Knife River crews are anticipated to work Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. each week. During construction hours, there may be occasional five to 10-minute delays and detours for adjacent residents and businesses. Drivers are encouraged to avoid delays by using alternate routes such as Main Street or Hawthorne Lane when possible. Knife River requests the community’s cooperation in ensuring the safety of residents and construction personnel. Those traveling through the project are asked to adhere to all signage and flaggers as crews work to create a better roadway and a safer neighborhood.
The Bench boulevard Project is the next project to be completed before construction of the Billings Bypass is to be started. The Billings Bypass will connect the Billings Heights to Lockwood areas. Another new road will connect the Billings Bypass to Highway 312 by another new road that will be built called “5 Mile Road“. The Billings Bypass is projected to be done as early as 2020, according to Stephen Streeter, District Manager for the Montana Department of Transportation. The expansion of the Bench Boulevard Project is next to be completed though.