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By A.J. Etherington
The Courier 

Railroad Overpass Under Construction in Nashua

 

December 13, 2017



Former Nashua mayor Pat Hallett remembers the conversations involving the initial planning for an overpass near Nashua being centered on safety and time delays. By her account, the need for an alternative route over the railroad tracks was needed for multiple reasons, but mostly for emergency services.

Montana Department of Transportation’s Glendive District Administrator Shane Mitz also remembers safety being the primary concern, citing the trains are on the tracks for an excess of 30 minutes. The reasoning being the need for police, emergency vehicles and ambulances to cross the tracks in case of an emergency or fire.

According to Hallett, roughly four years ago the town approached Mitz with the idea to put in an overpass during a then upcoming project to fix the length of Montana Highway 117 from Nashua to Fort Peck.

“I think it was Glen Meier who first brought up the idea, so that emergency vehicles could cross the tracks,” said Hallett, who also noted a need to avoid semi-truck traffic inside the city limits as a justification for the project, and the excessively long wait lines adding, “I am really excited for the overpass.”

Nashua resident Kayla Skolrud was also on the board with the project, commenting on the long wait times, and delays that even school buses have experienced in the town. “My grandparents live on the south side [of the tracks], and if they needed an ambulance while a train was on the tracks it could take some time.”

A Town of Nashua employee, who did not want to be identified, made a statement against the project saying, “None of us wanted an overpass, because now it bypasses the town.” The employee wouldn’t elaborate on why that was a concern, but others noted a possible loss of revenue to businesses along the current route.

Mitz commented that the project to redo Highway 117 had been planned since at least 2012, and that they were able to add the overpass to the project after meeting with the town. The main contract was awarded to SK Construction Inc. out of Missoula, who is subcontracting the bridge work to Sletten Construction based in Great Falls. Mitz added that Sletten was also the company working on the bridge south of Opheim.

According to Mitz, crews with SK Construction are currently working on shoring up embankments and dirt work that will be the base of the bridge, and that Sletten Construction will begin putting in the actual bridge structure as soon as January. He added that the bridge could be open to road traffic as soon as next summer, and that the new road, and bridge would be paved by Fall of 2018. That is also the time SK Construction is hoping to pave the current route of Highway 117 through Nashua.

Mitz clarified that MDT would continue to maintain the main road through Nashua even after the overpass is complete. He did note, however, that due to the addition of the bridge to the initial project they were not going to do as “elaborate” of a reconstruction of the roads inside the town as initially intended. It is also planned that chip sealing should be completed in 2019.

“We request people’s patience during construction,” said Mitz, but he added that delays should not be abundant as most of the work currently being completed is off the main traffic route. He closed saying, “We are confident we will have a good project on the ground when completed.”

 

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