Nashua To Get A Railroad Overpass
Published: Wednesday, November 28th, 2012
After decades of putting up with blockages on the railroad crossing in the middle of town, Nashua is going to have an overpass, according to a letter that Mayor Pat Hallett received from the Montana Department of Transportation and provided to The Courier.
The town decided to take the highway department up on its offer to redesign the planned improvements to state Highway 117, so the highway is realigned to incorporate a “grade separated railroad crossing” and intersect with U.S. 2 west of the current location.
This overpass will eliminate the frequent 30- or 40-minute waits for trains to clear the crossing. School buses and emergency vehicles will not be held up. Big trucks will not be making the S-curve through town.
The plan had been to upgrade the highway on its present layout from Fort Peck through the town, across the level crossing to U.S. 2 at Bergie’s. Now the Montana Department of Transportation will split what it calls the Fort Peck – Northeast project at the Milk River bridge south of town. The southern part of the project will be developed as planned, with tentative letting of bids in 2014, subject to completion of design activities and the availability of funding, according to MDT District Administrator Shane Mintz.
The part of the project north of the bridge will be changed to build a new piece of Highway 117 straight north to U.S. 2, instead of following its present curve east. The realignment on the west side of Nashua will include an overpass over the railroad tracks.
The road going through Nashua, forming Front Street and Sargent Street, will receive some pavement treatment to preserve and extend its life, but not to the extent that the original plan had proposed. It will still be a state-maintained route, Mintz said in his Nov. 16 letter to Hallett.
The Nashua portion of the project is expected to take at least a year longer than what was planned for the whole Fort Peck – Northeast project.
The overpass idea was discussed at a town meeting on Sept. 27, where opinions were divided. Some people said the Bakken oil boom is bringing more traffic and it would be safer to route it around town. Others objected that diverting traffic away from the main street might kill the town. Possible flood plain problems were mentioned. One suggestion was that BNSF be encouraged to extend its siding either east or west to keep trains from overlapping the crossing.
Sheriff Glen Meier said emergency traffic is the big issue, so he supported the overpass idea.
The informal vote that Mayor Hallett took after the meeting didn’t show a majority for the overpass, but more were in favor of it than against, she said.
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