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DOT holds public meeting on Hwy 93 design improvement near Pablo

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PABLO – More than 40 Mission Valley roadway users took advantage of the opportunity to weigh in on the Montana Department of Transportation’s potential safety improvements to the intersection of U.S. Highway 93 and Old Highway 93.  

The public meeting was held at the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribal Council chambers on Thursday evening.

The proposed reconstruction project located south of Pablo is currently in the preliminary design phase and MDT is seeking input on alternative intersection configurations before proceeding with the engineering phase. Once engineering plans are finalized, bids will be collected.

The project, called Pablo Safety Improvements, is focused on reducing the potential for crashes through improved intersection design. Over a 13-year-period, the segment of U.S. Highway 93 in question experienced a total of 15 reported crashes, including two fatalities. 

“Anytime two high-speed roadways cross one another there’s an elevated crash risk,” said Scott Gerken, MDT project manager. “If a driver judges the gap between traffic incorrectly, it can quickly become a deadly T-bone style crash.” 

According to the MDT, two possible configurations have been identified as potential safety improvements for the intersection.

Alternative one, the Reduced Conflict Intersections plan, seeks to decrease fatalities and injuries caused by right-angle, T-bone style crashes on four-lane divided highways by eliminating the most high-risk crossing and left turning movements.

With an RCI, drivers don’t have to wait for a gap in traffic to cross the highway. Motorists approaching a divided highway from a side road simply turn right onto the highway and then make a U-turn at a designated location. 

According to the DOT, RCIs installed at intersections similar to the one near Pablo have been shown to reduce intersection crashes by 49 percent, injury crashes by 42 percent and fatalities by 70 percent. 

The proposed Pablo RCIs would function in this manner: drivers on Old Highway 93 approaching U.S. Highway 93 would not be allowed to make left turns or cross traffic; instead, they would turn right onto the highway before accessing a designated U-turn to proceed in the desired direction. All turning movements from the highway would be preserved. U-turns for the RCIs would either be located approximately a quarter of a mile from the existing intersection or at the intersections of Division Street and Mud Creek Lane.

The second recommended alternative would remove the center-strip of Old Highway 93, effectively closing the roadway to all forms of east to west movement. In addition to eliminating crossing and left-hand turning movements from Old Highway 93, this option also eliminates left turns from U.S. Highway 93. Drivers attempting to make these movements would be required to use an alternative intersection.

“We’re trying to come up with an alternative that addresses the safety issues at the intersection, while accommodating local needs,” said Gerken. “The goal is to work with the community to eliminate the most high-risk crossing and turning movements on Old Highway 93.” 

Roadway improvements will also incorporate numerous elements aimed at improving visibility and safety for motorists at the intersection. Potential sight distance improvements include eliminating the southbound right-turn lane onto westbound Old Highway 93, as well as modifying or removing select sections of guardrail.

Those interested in providing feedback are encouraged to visit or call Melissa Shannon at 406-442-2922. Comments can also be emailed to   




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