Rouse Avenue Enhancements Address Bozeman's Growing Traffic Needs
By the middle of next year, vehicle, bicycle, and pedestrian traffic on one of Bozeman, Montana's busiest corridors will experience major enhancements along the route. The Montana Department of Transportation's (MDT) Rouse-Oak to Story Mill Road Project is well underway, with completion of its first phase expected in early summer 2018.
The project's overall goal is to develop a roadway better suited to the current and future needs of the Bozeman area. Average daily traffic for the Rouse Avenue corridor was 9,180 vehicles in 2016, and is projected to grow to 13,920 vehicles by 2036.
Bozeman, in the southwestern part of the state, is Montana's fourth largest city with a population of over 45,000 residents. It is the home of Montana State University; the school's Museum of the Rockies and the area's ski resorts are two of the attractions that bring a steadily-growing of tourists to the area. The increased local population and visitor numbers were among the factors that led to the development of the Rouse-Oak/Story Mill project.
William Fogarty, Construction Supervisor for MDT's Butte District, explains, "The purpose of the project is to improve vehicular Level of Service and enhance bike and pedestrian travel within the Rouse Avenue corridor. Rouse Avenue is the only continuous route in the northeastern portion of Bozeman, and serves as one of only three continuous north-south routes in the entire city. Rouse serves both local traffic accessing neighboring residential and business areas, as well as regional traffic accessing downtown Bozeman, Bridger Canyon, and the Bridger Bowl Ski Area."
The current phase of the project extends on Rouse Avenue from Oak Street north to Story Mill Road and includes multiple improvements, such as widening the road and the addition of bike paths, sidewalks and landscaping. Additionally, the project includes a new storm drain system, water system, and sanitary sewer system.
MDT is leading the project improvements through this state highway corridor. The Department partnered with the City of Bozeman, local stakeholders, the Bozeman School District, and Montana Rail Link from the beginning planning stages to develop the project. MDT hired DOWL, a leading western planning/surveying/transportation/environmental services firm, to prepare an Environmental Assessment, develop the design, assist with contract documents, and prepare Right of Way plans. DOWL began working on the project in 2005.
The Oak to Story Mill Road segment of the project was awarded in August, 2016 to contractor Knife River's Belgrade, Montana, division, for approximately $4.9 million dollars. Fogarty reports that costs currently programmed to reconstruct the Rouse Avenue corridor; including PE, CN/CE, ROW, and IC estimates for both segments, total approximately $33.4 million dollars.
As Fogarty relates, "MDT advertised a separate contract in the Spring of 2016 to remove trees and other vegetation to comply with the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and prior to accommodate the relocation of underground utilities. Utility relocation work began in the fall of 2016."
This work continued through mid-December, and then the project shut down for the winter. Roadway reconstruction began in April of 2017 with the plan being to have the road completed through pavement and opened to traffic in November," Fogarty continues. "However, delays resulting from coordination with utility relocation have impacted the contractor's schedule. Completion of the Phase 1 segment between Oak Street and Story Mill Road is now expected in early summer 2018."
Through this past summer, work continued on road excavation, asphalt removal, gravel placement, and storm drain installation. Deck repair on the bridge over the East Gallatin River is also underway, and includes rail, curb, and sidewalk work.
Minimizing Community Impacts
Certainly, a project of this magnitude cannot avoid impacting people and traffic, but concerted efforts have been made to minimize that impact and keep residents and businesses in the Bozeman community well informed about the Rouse project. Knife River sent out an informational mailer to all business and residences adjacent to the project. This mailer included a link to the MDT project website and directions for business and residents to sign up for weekly email updates. A second mailer was sent out just prior to the construction starting back up this past spring. Knife River has conducted outreach to the city and county governments, local schools, public transportation and other area entities and provides them with the weekly updates concerning the project.
Fogarty adds, "The Montana Department of Transportation and prime contractor Knife River hosted a pre-work public meeting and engage in an active public information campaign to keep road users apprised of current conditions. Monthly project coordination meetings are required and open to the public."
As for the need for continued traffic flow during the construction, Fogarty reports, "Except for a brief period when the railroad crossing near the Oak Street Intersection was reconstructed, roadway reconstruction has taken place under live traffic. The sequence of operations specified in the contract required the work to be completed in phases and that traffic flow be maintained during construction. Due to limited right of way and other geometric constraints, alternating one-way traffic was provided during the Phase 1 section.
"Coordination with utility relocation work has presented continual challenges to the contractor. Requiring two-way traffic be maintained through most of the project during construction leaves little room for all parties involved to work."
Enhancing Safety and Future Development
Completion of the Rouse-Oak/Story Mill Project, and the second phase to follow, will impact the corridor and its development in multiple ways. Fogarty comments, "Rouse Avenue was nominated for improvements based on a need for improved capacity. Maintaining community character is one of the Project Goals. Land uses within the corridor can be characterized as commercial/municipal, residential, commercial/light industrial, and rural/residential. Most of the corridor is developed and parts of the corridor are redeveloping. The improvements are consistent with current zoning and will improve vehicle, pedestrian, and bicycle movement within and through the corridor, improve drainage, and improve safety. The project will enhance the safety for all modes of transportation for existing and future development."
The second phase of the project will be let in the winter of 2018; utility relocation work is expected to occur during 2018 with roadway reconstruction set to begin in the spring of 2019. The project will construct improvements between Main Street and Oak Street. The second phase of the project is projected to be completed in 2020.
Prior to the Rouse-Oak/Story Mill project, MDT completed several other projects in recent years to address traffic needs in the Bozeman area. Among these was the East Belgrade Interchange Project, which added direct access from Interstate 90 to Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport. Another project replaced the dual bridges at the West Bozeman Interchange with one new 4-lane structure, and addressed structural vulnerabilities during earthquakes and improved traffic capacity and function.